Physical basis of cognitive alterations in alzheimer's disease: Synapse loss is the major correlate of cognitive impairment



We present here both linear regressions and multivariate analyses correlating three global neuropsychological tests with a number of structural and neurochemical measurements performed on a prospective series of 15 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 9 neuropathologically normal subjects. The statistical data show only weak correlations between psychometric indices and plaques and tangles, but the density of neocortical synapses measured by a new immunocytochemical/densitometric technique reveals very powerful correlations with all three psychological assays. Multivariate analysis by stepwise regression produced a model including midfrontal and inferior parietal synapse density, plus inferior parietal plaque counts with a correlation coefficient of 0.96 for Mattis's Dementia Rating Scale. Plaque density contributed only 26% of that strength.