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J Chem Neuroanat. 1994 Aug;7(3):185-90.

Absolute number and size of pigmented locus coeruleus neurons in young and aged individuals.

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Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205-2196.


Significant loss of noradrenergic neurons of the locus coeruleus in aging and Alzheimer's disease has been reported. The interpretation of these analyses, however, is problematic because of the model- and assumption-based nature of conventional sampling and estimation techniques. In the present study, unbiased stereological methods were used to estimate the total number and mean cell volume of pigmented neurons of the locus coeruleus in the brains of young and aged nondemented persons. No side-to-side differences are seen, and there is no change in pigmented cell number or size in the locus coeruleus of nondemented older persons as compared with that of young individuals. In light of previous studies that show severe locus coeruleus cell loss in Alzheimer's disease, these data support further critical investigations into the possible protective role of noradrenaline in normal cognitive functions and emphasize the importance of avoiding methodological bias in quantitative neuroanatomical studies.

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