Atrophy of cholinergic neurons is a prominent component of Alzheimer's disease, and may explain in part the profound memory loss that is characteristic of patients with this disorder. Previous studies in animal models have shown that infusions of nerve growth factor into the adult brain can prevent both age-related and lesion-induced cholinergic neuronal atrophy. Recently, recombinant human nerve growth factor was found biologically active in nonprimate animal models. In the present experiment, recombinant human nerve growth factor infusions into the brains of adult primates prevented lesion-induced cholinergic neuronal degeneration and promoted cholinergic neurite sprouting. These findings provide additional support for potential therapeutic trials of human nerve growth factor in patients with Alzheimer's disease.