Relationship between plaques, tangles, and loss of cortical cholinergic fibers in Alzheimer disease

Changiz Geula*, M. Marsel Mesulam, Daniel M. Saroff, Chuang Kuo Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Recent observations in our laboratory have indicated substantial and systematic regional variations in the loss of cortical cholinergic fibers in Alzheimer disease (AD). Previous attempts to study the relationship between cortical cholinergic loss and the density of cortical pathological lesions have resulted in conflicting findings. Furthermore, most reports have correlated density of plaques and tangles with the residual level of cholinergic innervation rather than its loss. The purpose of the present study was to determine the relationship between loss of cholinergic axons and density of tangles and β-amyloid (Aβ) deposits in various cortical areas of AD brains. Aβ deposits and tangles were observed throughout the cerebral cortex. Quantitative analysis revealed almost no correlation between loss of cholinergic fibers and the density of Aβ deposits. Qualitative observations revealed similar results when cored and neuritic plaques were considered separately. By contrast, cholinergic fiber loss displayed a significant correlation with the density of tangles (r = 0.52-0.79). However, in a few areas, such as the cingulate cortex, tangle density appeared to be unrelated to the loss of cholinergic fibers. These results indicate that cortical cholinergic denervation in AD is related to cytoskeletal pathology. However, the lack of a perfect relationship with cytoskeletal pathology implicates additional factors in the cholinergic pathology of AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-75
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neuropathology and experimental neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998


  • Amyloid plaques
  • Basal forebrain cholinergic neurons
  • Paired helical filaments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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