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Abstract

To map presynaptic cholinergic terminal densities in normal aging (n = 36), Alzheimer's disease (AD) (n = 22), and Parkinson's disease (PD) (n = 15), we performed single-photon emission computed tomography using [123I]iodoben-zovesamicol (IBVM), an in vivo marker of the vesicular acetylcholine transporter. We used coregistered positron emission tomography with [18F]fluorodexyglucose for metabolic assessment and coregistered magnetic resonance imaging for atrophy assessment. In controls (age, 22–91 years), cortical IBVM binding declined only 3.7% per decade. In AD, cortical binding correlated inversely with dementia severity. In mild dementia, binding differed according to age of onset, but metabolism did not. With an onset age of less than 65 years, binding was reduced severely throughout the entire cerebral cortex and hippocapus (about 30%), but with an onset age of 65 years or more, binding reductions were restricted to temporal cortex and hippocampus. In PD without dementia, binding was reduced only in parietal and occipital cortex, but demented PD subjects had extensive cortical binding decreases similar to early-onset AD. We conclude that cholinergic neuron integrity can be monitored in living AD and PD patients, and that it is not so devastated in vivo as suggested by postmortem choline acetylransferase activity (50–80%).