The Brainstem Tau Cytoskeletal Pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease: A Brief Historical Overview and Description of its Anatomical Distribution Pattern, Evolutional Features, Pathogenetic and Clinical Relevance

Author(s): Udo Rüb, Katharina Stratmann, Helmut Heinsen, Domenico Del Turco, Kay Seidel, Wilfred den Dunnen, Horst-Werner Korf

Journal Name: Current Alzheimer Research

Volume 13 , Issue 10 , 2016

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The human brainstem is involved in the regulation of the sleep/waking cycle and normal sleep architectonics and is crucial for the performance of a variety of somatomotor, vital autonomic, oculomotor, vestibular, auditory, ingestive and somatosensory functions. It harbors the origins of the ascending dopaminergic, cholinergic, noradrenergic, serotonergic systems, as well the home base of the descending serotonergic system. In contrast to the cerebral cortex the affection of the brainstem in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by the neurofibrillary or tau cytoskeletal pathology was recognized only approximately fourty years ago in initial brainstem studies. Detailed pathoanatomical investigations of silver stained or tau immunostained brainstem tissue sections revealed nerve cell loss and prominent ADrelated cytoskeletal changes in the raphe nuclei, locus coeruleus, and in the compact parts of the substantia nigra and pedunculopontine nucleus. An additional conspicuous AD-related cytoskeletal pathology was also detected in the auditory brainstem system of AD patients (i.e. inferior colliculus, superior olive, dorsal cochlear nucleus), in the oculomotor brainstem network (i.e. rostral interstitial nucleus of the medial longitudinal fascicle, Edinger-Westphal nucleus, reticulotegmental nucleus of pons), autonomic system (i.e. central and periaqueductal grays, parabrachial nuclei, gigantocellular reticular nucleus, dorsal motor vagal and solitary nuclei, intermediate reticular zone). The alterations in these brainstem nuclei offered for the first time adequate explanations for a variety of less understood disease symptoms of AD patients: Parkinsonian extrapyramidal motor signs, depression, hallucinations, dysfunctions of the sleep/wake cycle, changes in sleeping patterns, attentional deficits, exaggerated pupil dilatation, autonomic dysfunctions, impairments of horizontal and vertical saccades, dysfunctional smooth pursuits. The very early occurrence of the AD-related cytoskeletal pathology in some of these brainstem nuclei points to a major and strategic role of the brainstem in the induction and brain spread of the AD-related cytoskeletal pathology.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, brainstem, cytoskeletal pathology, pathoanatomy, tau.

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Article Details

Year: 2016
Published on: 24 August, 2016
Page: [1178 - 1197]
Pages: 20
DOI: 10.2174/1567205013666160606100509
Price: $65

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