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J Comp Neurol. 1996 Jul 15;371(1):153-63.

Age-related changes in oligodendrocytes in monkey cerebral cortex.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


Compared with those in young monkeys (5-12 years of age), oligodendrocytes in area 46 of frontal cortex and primary visual cortex of monkeys over 25 years of age develop bulbous swellings along their processes. Such swellings are filled with characteristic inclusions that resemble age pigment, and other accumulations of these inclusions occur within the cell bodies of the oligodendrocytes in old monkeys. In addition, whereas the oligodendrocytes in young monkeys most commonly occur singly, in old monkeys it is common to find oligodendrocytes in groups or rows. These aggregates are often situated close to capillaries, and in some instances it is found that the cell bodies of the oligodendrocytes abut the basal lamina surrounding the capillary, so that the normally intervening astrocytic glial limiting membrane is absent. In these groups and rows, the perikarya of the oligodendrocytes are squashed close together, and it is common to find tight junctions formed between them. The cortices of the old monkeys also show extensive degeneration of myelin, and it is supposed that this is linked to the changes in the oligodendrocytes. It is hypothesized that the alterations in the oligodendrocyte-myelin system lead to changes in the rates of conduction along fibers whose myelin sheaths are affected, and this may be one of the causes of the behavioral changes associated with aging in primates.

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