Age-related alterations in the rodent brain cholinergic system and behavior

R. Strong, P. Hicks, L. Hsu, R. T. Bartus, S. J. Enna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


Pre- and postsynaptic cholinergic markers were studied in various brain regions of mice and rats aged 6 to 30 months in an attempt to determine whether alterations in this transmitter system occur during the normal aging process. Reliable decreases in cholinergic receptor binding and choline acetyltransferase (CAT) activity were found in the cerebral cortex and corpus striatum. These alterations in the cholinergic system were typically more consistent and robust than changes involving glutamic acid decarboxylase, an enzyme marker for GABA neurons. No statistically significant changes in any markers were found in the hippocampus of either species. Significant age-related changes in retention of passive avoidance learning and locomotor activity were also observed in these same animals. These findings demonstrate that changes in the cholinergic system occur naturally in aged mice and rats and that both the loss of cholinergic receptors and decrease in CAT activity may contribute to the motor and mental impairments that often accompany old age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-63
Number of pages5
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes


  • Age-related deficits
  • Choline acetyltransferase
  • Cholinergic receptor binding
  • Glutamic acid decarboxylase
  • Locomotor activity
  • Passive-avoidance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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