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Neurology. 1993 Jan;43(1):192-7.

Quantitative synaptic alterations in the human neocortex during normal aging.

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  • 1Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0624.


We quantified the synaptic population density in the frontal cortex of 25 individuals without dementia 16 to 98 years old, using sections double-immunolabeled for beta/A4 amyloid and for synaptophysin, and found a significant inverse correlation between the presynaptic terminal (PT) counts and age (r = -0.7, p < 0.001). Individuals older than 60 years had an average 20% decrease in PT density compared with individuals younger than 60 years. There were no significant correlations between the age and the number of beta/A4 amyloid-positive plaques or between synaptic density and the number of amyloid plaques. Further analysis of the digitized serial optical images showed focal areas of synapse loss and distended synaptophysin-containing boutons in the mature plaques of the normal aged cases. However, we found no microscopic changes in the synaptic content inside and outside the diffuse plaques. We suggest that a loss of synaptic input in the neocortex is an age-dependent factor that contributes to the overall synaptic loss in Alzheimer's disease, but that this might be largely independent of the beta/A4-amyloid deposition.

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