Laminar distribution of the pathological changes in the cerebral cortex in variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)

Richard A. Armstrong, Nigel J. Cairns, J.W. Ironside, Peter L. Lantos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To determine the pattern of cortical degeneration in cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the laminar distribution of the vacuolation ("spongiform change"), surviving neurones, glial cell nuclei, and prion protein (PrP) deposits was studied in the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes. The vacuolation exhibited two common patterns of distribution: either the vacuoles were present throughout the cortex or a bimodal distribution was present with peaks of density in the upper and lower cortical laminae. The distribution of the surviving neurones was highly variable in different regions; the commonest pattern being a uniform distribution with cortical depth. Glial cell nuclei were distributed largely in the lower cortical laminae. The non-florid PrP deposits exhibited either a bimodal distribution or exhibited a peak of density in the upper cortex while the florid deposits were either uniformly distributed down the cortex or were present in the upper cortical laminae. In a significant proportion of areas, the density of the vacuoles was positively correlated with either the surviving neurones or with the glial cell nuclei. These results suggest similarities and differences in the laminar distributions of the pathogenic changes in vCJD compared with cases of sporadic CJD (sCJD). The laminar distribution of vacuoles was more extensive in vCJD than in sCJD whereas the distribution of the glial cell nuclei was similar in the two disorders. In addition, PrP deposits in sCJD were localised mainly in the lower cortical laminae while in vCJD, PrP deposits were either present in all laminae or restricted to the upper cortical laminae. These patterns of laminar distribution suggest that the process of cortical degeneration may be distinctly different in vCJD compared with sCJD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-171
Number of pages7
JournalFolia Neuropathologica
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • cortico-cortical pathways
  • florid plaques
  • glial cells
  • laminar distribution
  • prion protein deposits
  • PrP
  • vacuolation


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