An increase in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-total-tau, and recently also in CSF-phospho-tau, has been found in Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the mechanisms for these changes are not known. We examined longitudinal CSF samples from nine patients with acute stroke. As compared with baseline levels (day 0-1), CSF-total-tau showed an increase at day 2-3 (179%; P=0.018), day 7-9 (257%; P=0.003), and after 3 weeks (425%; P=0.002) and returned to normal levels after 3-5 months (140%; NS). In contrast, there was no significant change in CSF-phospho-tau. These findings suggest that total tau and phospho-tau in CSF reflect different pathogenic processes in the brain; total-tau the degree of neuronal damage and phospho-tau the phosphorylation state of tau and thus possibly the formation of neurofibrillary tangles.