Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Neurochemical characteristics of early and late onset types of Alzheimer's disease.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 31 March 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:961
  1. M N Rossor,
  2. L L Iversen,
  3. G P Reynolds,
  4. C Q Mountjoy,
  5. M Roth


    Brains of 49 patients who had died with Alzheimer's disease and 54 controls were examined. The Alzheimer group exhibited noticeably reduced activity of the cholinergic marker enzyme choline acetyltransferase in the cerebral cortex, but cortical concentrations of noradrenaline, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and somatostatin were also significantly reduced. Analysis of the results according to age at death showed that the older patients, dying in their 9th and 10th decades, had a relatively pure cholinergic deficit confined to temporal lobe and hippocampus, together with a reduced concentration of somatostatin confined to temporal cortex. By contrast, the younger patients, dying in their 7th and 8th decades, had a widespread and severe cholinergic deficit together with the abnormalities of noradrenaline, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and somatostatin, and the younger patients accounted for most of the abnormalities in these systems observed in the overall group. Comparison of the young subjects with Alzheimer's disease with the older controls did not support the concept of Alzheimer's disease representing an acceleration of the aging process. These results suggest that Alzheimer's disease in people aged under 80 may represent a distinct form of presenile dementia which differs in important respects from the dementia of old age.