Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Molecular Pharmacology

pp 822-827


  • Alvin V. TerryJrAffiliated withDepartments of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medical College of Georgia


Neuronal cell deterioration; Neuronal cell death


Neurodegeneration refers to the processes whereby damaged neuronal cells deteriorate or degenerate and eventually die.

Since the body's ability to replace lost neurons (i.e., such as via neurogenesis) is quite limited when compared to many nonneuronal cells, degenerative processes affecting neurons can be quite devastating.

Basic Mechanisms

The basic mechanisms underlying the neuronal cell degeneration and death observed in the neurologic disorders as diverse as Alzheimer's disease and stroke have not been fully elucidated. However, a number of distinct factors and processes clearly contribute to neurodegeneration including increased oxidative stress and free radical damage, impaired mitochondrial function, excitotoxicity, immunologic and inflammatory mechanisms, impaired trophic factor support, and altered cell signaling. In the process of neuronal degeneration, cells eventually die as a r ...

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