Reference work entry
Atrophy is a loss of cells of any tissue. In the brain, atrophy refers to a loss of neurons that may be generalized (e.g., diffuse atrophy) or focal, reflecting circumscribed regional loss. Focal atrophy may occur as a result of trauma or cerebrovascular lesions, for example. Generalized atrophy may occur with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. With atrophy, there is also corresponding loss of neural connections (synapses). Visual features of atrophy include sulcal widening, shrunken gyri, and enlarged ventricles. Atrophy may be viewed on gross inspection of the brain post-mortem or antemortem with structural imaging techniques such as MRI or CT scan. Figure 1 displays diffuse brain atrophy of the cerebral hemispheres viewed from the top.
References and Readings
- Smits, L. L., Tijms, B. M., Benedictus, M. R., Koedam, E. L. G. E., Koene, T., Reuling, I. E. W., Barkhof, F., Scheltens, P., Pijnenburg, Y. A. L., Wattjes, M. P., & van der Flier, W. M. (2014). Regional atrophy is associated with impairment in distinct cognitive domains in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 10, S299–S305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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