Alzheimer's Disease-Related Alterations in Synaptic Density: Neocortex and Hippocampus

J Alzheimers Dis. 2006;9(3 Suppl):101-15. doi: 10.3233/jad-2006-9s312.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive disorder that is characterized by the accumulation of neuropathologic lesions and neurochemical alterations. Ultrastructural investigations in many association regions of the neocortex and the hippocampal dentate gyrus have demonstrated a disease-related decline in numerical synaptic density. This decline in brain connectivity occurs early in the disease process and strongly correlates with the cognitive decline observed in AD. The synapse loss does not appear to be an inevitable consequence of the aging process. This article reviews the ultrastructural studies assessing AD-related synaptic loss and the possible compensatory changes in the synaptic complex that occur as a result of the loss in brain connectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Cell Count
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Synapses / pathology*
  • Ultrasonography