Biochemical Evidence of Selective Nerve Cell Changes in the Normal Ageing Human and Rat Brain

S. J. Allen, J. S. Benton, M. J. Goodhardt, E. A. Haan, N. R. Sims, C. C.T. Smith, J. A. Spillane, D. M. Bowen, A. N. Davison

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140 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Atrophy with ageing of human whole brain, entire temporal lobe, and caudate nucleus was assessed in autopsy specimens, by biochemical techniques. Only the caudate nucleus showed changes. Markers for several neurotransmitter systems were also examined for changes with age. In neocortex and temporal lobe of human brain, small decreases were detected in markers of cholinergic nerve terminals, whereas a large decrease (79%) occurred in the caudate nucleus. Findings were similar in striatum from 3–33‐month‐old rats. No change occurred in binding of [3H]quinuclidinyl benzilate by human samples. Markers of serotonergic terminals were also unchanged in human and rat brain. By contrast, binding of [3H]lysergic acid diethylamide and [3H]serotonin was decreased (32–81%) in human neocortex and temporal lobe, but not in caudate nucleus. A 43% loss of a marker of γ‐aminobutyrate terminals occurred in human neocortex, while [3H]muscimol binding increased (179%). No changes were detected in markers of catecholamine synapses in temporal lobe or rat striatum. Hence, with human ageing there appears to be a loss of markers of γ‐aminobutyrate neurones intrinsic to neocortex and acetylcholine cells intrinsic to the caudate nucleus, as well as a change in postsynaptic serotonin receptors in neocortex. These losses are accompanied by relative preservation of markers of ascending projections from basal forebrain and brain stem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-265
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1983
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Acetylcholine
  • Ageing
  • Human brain
  • Neurotransmitter receptors
  • Serotonin


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