Neuron loss associated with age but not Alzheimer's disease pathology in the chimpanzee brain: Aging in chimpanzee brain

Melissa K. Edler, Emily L. Munger, Richard S. Meindl, William D. Hopkins, John J. Ely, Joseph M. Erwin, Elliott J. Mufson, Patrick R. Hof, Chet C. Sherwood, Mary Ann Raghanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In the absence of disease, ageing in the human brain is accompanied by mild cognitive dysfunction, gradual volumetric atrophy, a lack of significant cell loss, moderate neuroinflammation, and an increase in the amyloid beta (Aβ) and tau proteins. Conversely, pathologic age-related conditions, particularly Alzheimer's disease (AD), result in extensive neocortical and hippocampal atrophy, neuron death, substantial Aβ plaque and tau-associated neurofibrillary tangle pathologies, glial activation and severe cognitive decline. Humans are considered uniquely susceptible to neurodegenerative disorders, although recent studies have revealed Aβ and tau pathology in non-human primate brains. Here, we investigate the effect of age and AD-like pathology on cell density in a large sample of postmortem chimpanzee brains (n = 28, ages 12-62 years). Using a stereologic, unbiased design, we quantified neuron density, glia density and glia:neuron ratio in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, middle temporal gyrus, and CA1 and CA3 hippocampal subfields. Ageing was associated with decreased CA1 and CA3 neuron densities, while AD pathologies were not correlated with changes in neuron or glia densities. Differing from cerebral ageing and AD in humans, these data indicate that chimpanzees exhibit regional neuron loss with ageing but appear protected from the severe cell death found in AD. This article is part of the theme issue 'Evolution of the primate ageing process'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190619
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1811
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • ageing
  • brain
  • chimpanzee
  • glia
  • neuron


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