These studies were designed to assess some of the morphological alterations that occur in medium-sized spiny neurons of the caudate nucleus in aged cats. Computer assistance was used to quantify in three dimensions the extent of the dendritic trees of 164 neurons from 11 cats (5 1-3 years and 6 over 10 years of age) stained by the rapid Golgi technique. In all animals beyond 10 years of age there was a decrease in the density of spines on distal dendritic segments. This decrease was moderate (16%) in 13 year old cats and reached about 50% in 15 and 18 year old animals. In addition, there was an increase in the frequency of occurrence of spines with enlarged heads in all aged cats. In cats over 13 years there was a marked loss of portions of distal dendritic segments. All measures of dendrite length displayed statistically significant decreases of 30-40% in cats 15 and 18 years of age. There were no significant age-related alterations in numbers of dendrites, number of branches per dendrite or soma diameter. These morphological results indicate that there is a sequence of age-related changes that occurs in caudate medium-sized spiny neurons and provides a basis from which to assess functional alterations.
- Caudate nucleus
- Spiny neurons