A quantitative analysis of optic nerve axons in elderly control subjects and patients with Alzheimer's disease

Anila B. Syed, Richard A. Armstrong*, Christopher U.M. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To study the density and cross-sectional area of axons in the optic nerve in elderly control subjects and in cases of Alzheimer's disease (AD) using an image analysis system. Methods: Sections of optic nerves from control and AD patients were stained with toluidine blue to reveal axon profiles. Results: The density of axons was reduced in both the center and peripheral portions of the optic nerve in AD compared with control patients. Analysis of axons with different cross-sectional areas suggested a specific loss of the smaller sized axons in AD, i.e., those with areas less that 1.99 μm2. An analysis of axons >11 μm2 in cross-sectional area suggested no specific loss of the larger axons in this group of patients. Conclusions: The data suggest that image analysis provides an accurate and reproducible method of quantifying axons in the optic nerve. In addition, the data suggest that axons are lost throughout the optic nerve with a specific loss of the smaller-sized axons. Loss of the smaller axons may explain the deficits in color vision observed in a significant proportion of patients with AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalFolia Neuropathologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


Bibliographical note

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  • Alzheimer's disease
  • axons
  • image analysis
  • optic nerve
  • size distribution

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