To determine the possible role of Wallerian degeneration secondary to the grey matter neuronal loss in the pathogenesis of "leuko-araiosis", computerised tomography (CT) of the brain was studied in 98 normotensive and non diabetic subjects free of cardiac diseases: 32 with Alzheimer's disease, 36 with Parkinson's disease, eight with progressive supranuclear palsy, and 22 controls. In Alzheimer's disease, leuko-araiosis scores were greater than in control subjects. Leuko-araiosis was more prominent in anterior periventricular areas in Parkinson's disease and progressive supranuclear palsy, and in posterior periventricular areas in Alzheimer's disease. In two patients with Alzheimer's disease and leuko-araiosis, necropsy revealed diffuse white matter pallor, mild fibrillary astrocytosis, and in one patient limited hyaline thickening of small white matter vessels, without any infarction or hypertensive change. Changes were more severe in white matter close to cortical areas with a great density of neurofibrillary tangles. Leuko-araiosis was more severe or more widespread in Alzheimer's disease than in Parkinson's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy and normal ageing. Differences in the location of leuko-araiosis between the four groups might be due to differences in the location of the grey matter disorder and Wallerian degeneration rather than amyloid in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy and normal ageing. Wallerian degeneration might be another cause of leuko-araiosis in neuro-degenerative disorders beside previously reported extra-cerebral predisposing factors and amyloid angiopathy.
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