The present study demonstrates the effects of adrenalectomy and subcutaneously administered corticosterone on N-methyl-d-aspartate-induced neurodegeneration in the cholinergic magnocellular basal nucleus of the rat. NMDA was unilaterally injected into the nucleus basalis at different plasma corticosterone concentrations in adrenalectomized rats, in adrenalectomized animals with subcutaneously implanted cholesterol-corticosterone pellets containing 25% or 100% corticosterone, and in sham-adrenalectomized controls. The neurotoxic impact of the NMDA injection in the various experimental groups was assessed by the loss of cholinergic fibers stained with acetylcholinesterase histochemistry in the parietal neocortex. Reactive cortical astrocytes as a result of the treatments were detected by glial fibrillary acidic protein immunohistochemistry. Measurements of the densities of astrocytes and cholinergic fibers at the injected side of the brain were carried out by image analysis.