AGEINGAging causes partial loss of basal forebrain but no loss of pontine reticular cholinergic neuronsBaskerville, Karen A.a; Kent, Carolinea; Nicolle, Michelle M.a; Gallagher, Michelab; McKinney, Michaela Author Information aDepartment of Neuroscience, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida b Department of Psychology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA Correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr Karen A. Baskerville, PhD, Department of Neuroscience, Mayo Clinic, 4500 San Pablo Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32224, USA Tel: +1 904 953 7130 (office); +1 904 953 2449 (lab); fax: +1 904 953 7117; e-mail: [email protected] Sponsorship: This work was supported by Grant P01AG09973 from the National Institute on Aging. Received 13 July 2006; accepted 18 August 2006 NeuroReport: November 27, 2006 - Volume 17 - Issue 17 - p 1819-1823 doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32800fef5a Buy Metrics Abstract Cholinergic degeneration occurs in several neurodegenerative diseases. To investigate whether normal aging causes selective neurodegeneration, we compared counts of cholinergic neurons in the medial septum/vertical limb of the diagonal band and pedunculopontine and laterodorsal tegmental nuclei of the brainstem in young and aged Long-Evans rats characterized for their spatial learning ability in the Morris water maze. A subset of aged rats (aged-unimpaired) learned the spatial learning task as young rats, whereas another group (age-impaired) showed poorer learning than young animals. In the medial septum/diagonal band, there was a significant loss (−23%, P<0.02) of cholinergic neurons in aged-impaired animals compared with young subjects. In the brainstem, there were no significant differences in cholinergic cell number in any group. This selective loss of cholinergic neurons may, in part, account for the cognitive deficits observed in aging and, considering previous findings in this model, may be related to oxidative stress. © 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.