Topography of the magnocellular basal forebrain system in human brain

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1984 Jan;43(1):1-21. doi: 10.1097/00005072-198401000-00001.


In primates, the large neurons in the nucleus basalis of Meynert (nbM), nucleus of the diagonal band of Broca (dbB), and medial septum are part of a cholinergic system with direct projections to amygdala, hippocampus, and cortex. Recent evidence indicates that neurons of this system selectively degenerate in individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and suggests that degeneration of these cells contributes to the loss of presynaptic cortical cholinergic markers which occurs in these patients. The present report describes the topographical distribution of these large intensely basophilic, basal forebrain neurons in human brain. Rostrally, neurons of this magnocellular system are present in the medial septum and the dorsal and ventral parts of the nucleus of the dbB. The largest number occur in the nbM, which is situated in the substantia innominata below the globus pallidus. Caudally, large nbM-type neurons are found along the ventral and lateral edges of the globus pallidus. Neurons of this type are also encountered in the white matter below the putamen and nucleus accumbens, at the edges of the anterio commissure, in the white matter laminae of the globus pallidus and within and at the medial edge of the genu of the interal capsule. Directions for dissection of this system in human brain are given in an Appendix.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / physiology
  • Afferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Basal Ganglia / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Dissection
  • Efferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Neurons / anatomy & histology
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Nissl Bodies / anatomy & histology
  • Putamen / anatomy & histology
  • Substantia Innominata / anatomy & histology*
  • Substantia Innominata / cytology
  • Substantia Innominata / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Acetylcholinesterase