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Neuroscience. 1998 Apr;83(4):991-1002.

Cortical distribution of neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease matches the pattern of neurons that retain their capacity of plastic remodelling in the adult brain.

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Paul Flechsig Institute of Brain Research, Department of Neuroanatomy, Leipzig, Germany.


The formation of neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease shows a preferential involvement of certain cytoarchitecturally defined cortical areas suggesting systematic differences in regional neuronal vulnerability. The cellular and molecular nature of this selective neuronal vulnerability that follows a certain hierarchy of structural brain organization is largely unknown. In the present study, we compared the regional pattern of tangle density in Alzheimer's disease with systematic regional differences in neuronal plasticity that can be observed both during ageing and in Alzheimer's disease. Changes in dendritic length and arborization of Golgi-impregnated pyramidal neurons were analysed after three-dimensional reconstruction in 12 cortical areas. The intensity of dendritic remodelling that was observed during ageing as well as in Alzheimer's disease was regionally different and decreased in the following order: transentorhinal region > limbic areas (entorhinal region, hippocampus) > non-primary association areas (37, 40, 46) > primary sensory association areas (7, 18, 22) > primary sensory and motor cortex (17, 41, 4). These regional differences of neuronal plasticity follow the same pattern as the regional vulnerability to tangle formation in Alzheimer's disease. The results of the present study provide evidence that a high degree of structural neuronal plasticity might predispose neurons to tangle formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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