Butyrylcholinesterase reactivity differentiates the amyloid plaques of aging from those of dementia

‐Marsel Mesulam*, Changiz Geula

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

225 Scopus citations


In a sample of consecutively received, 4 demented and 4 age‐matched nondemented brains, the total cortical area covered by plaque‐like Aβ amyloid and butyrylcholinesterase deposits was measured at two regions of the temporal cortex with the help of computed densitometry. Demented as well as age‐matched nondemented brains contained Aβ and butyrylcholinesterase‐positive plaques. The total cortical area covered by the Aβ precipitates was higher in demented individuals but there was overlap with the values seen in the specimens from nondemented individuals. The proportinal plaque area displaying butyrylcholinesterase reactivity was very significantly and fivefold to sixfold higher in the demented than in the nondemented group and there was no overlap between the two populations. Diffuse Aβ deposits in nondemented elderly brains may represent a benign or preclinical stage of plaque deposition with relatively little pathological effect on brain tissue and mental function. Our results suggest that the progressively more extensive butyrylcholinesterase reactivity of plaques may participate in their transformation from a relatively benign form to pathogenic structures associated with neuritic degeneration and dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-727
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of neurology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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