An outline of degenerative conditions in the brain
The neuropathology of degenerative brain and spinal cord diseases is briefly reviewed. These are diseases in which selected populations of neurons die progressively, giving rise to progressive diseases affecting cognitive or motor functions. They are associated with the build-up in the CNS of abnormal protein aggregates. Many are genetically determined in at least some cases and recent discovery of the genes involved has enabled animal models to be developed that allow preventive or treatment strategies to be developed, in some cases, for the first time. The affected neurons are thought to die by an apoptotic-like process. Disease pathogenesis is likely to involve some common mechanisms including free radical damage, excitotoxic injury and calcium entry into cells which leads to proteolytic damage including damage involving caspases.