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Cereb Cortex. 2011 Nov;21(11):2519-24. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr033. Epub 2011 Mar 22.

Total numbers of neurons and glial cells in cortex and basal ganglia of aged brains with Down syndrome--a stereological study.

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Research Laboratory for Stereology and Neuroscience, Copenhagen University Hospital, Bispebjerg, DK-2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark.


The total numbers of neurons and glial cells in the neocortex and basal ganglia in adults with Down syndrome (DS) were estimated with design-based stereological methods, providing quantitative data on brains affected by delayed development and accelerated aging. Cell numbers, volume of regions, and densities of neurons and glial cell subtypes were estimated in brains from 4 female DS subjects (mean age 66 years) and 6 female controls (mean age 70 years). The DS subjects were estimated to have about 40% fewer neocortical neurons in total (11.1 × 10(9) vs. 17.8 × 10(9), 2p ≤ 0.001) and almost 30% fewer neocortical glial cells with no overlap to controls (12.8 × 10(9) vs. 18.2 × 10(9), 2p = 0.004). In contrast, the total number of neurons in the basal ganglia was the same in the 2 groups, whereas the number of oligodendrocytes in the basal ganglia was reduced by almost 50% in DS (405 × 10(6) vs. 816 × 10(6), 2p = 0.01). We conclude that trisomy 21 affects cortical structures more than central gray matter emphasizing the differential impairment of brain development. Despite concomitant Alzheimer-like pathology, the neurodegenerative outcome in a DS brain deviates from common Alzheimer disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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