Retinal pathology in Alzheimer's disease. I. Ganglion cell loss in foveal/parafoveal retina

Neurobiol Aging. 1996 May-Jun;17(3):377-84. doi: 10.1016/0197-4580(96)00010-3.


Morphometric analysis of the numbers of neurons in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) of the central retina (fovea/foveola/parafoveal retina) in eyes from 9 Alzheimer's disease (AD) and 11 age-matched control cases revealed an overall decrease of 25% in total numbers of neurons in AD as compared with control eyes. Detailed analyses of GCL neurons at various eccentricities from the foveola showed that the greatest decrease in neuronal density (43% decrease) occurred in the central 0-0.5 mm (foveal region), while at 0.5-1 mm and at 1-1.5 mm eccentricities, neuronal loss amounted to 24 and 26%, respectively. The temporal region of the central retina appeared most severely affected, with up to 52% decrease in neuronal density near the foveola (central 0-0.5 mm eccentricity). There was close agreement between fellow eyes analyzed separately for three AD and three control cases. Analysis of neuronal sizes showed that all sizes of neurons were similarly affected in AD. In the GCL of control retinas, neurons decreased with age (coefficient of correlation = -0.67), while in AD retinas no such relationship was evident. Since in the central 0-2 mm region of the retina 97% of neurons in the GCL are ganglion cells (while the remaining 3% consist of displaced amacrine cells), these results demonstrate extensive ganglion cell loss in the central retina in AD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology*