The locus coeruleus and memory: a study of chronic alcoholics with and without the memory impairment of Korsakoff's psychosis.Brain Res. 1992 Dec 11; 598(1-2):33-7.BR
The loss of noradrenergic locus coeruleus neurons has been identified as the possible critical lesion inducing amnesia in alcoholic patients with the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The present study aims to test this hypothesis by quantifying the number of pigmented locus coeruleus neurons in 4 alcoholics with the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, 5 alcoholics with Wernicke's encephalopathy alone but no amnesia, and 1 alcoholic and 5 age-matched controls with no neurological disorders. Apart from an increased vascularity in the locus coeruleus of alcoholics, no significant differences in the number, morphology or distribution of pigmented locus coeruleus neurons was noted between any of the groups analysed. There was a significant correlation between the number of locus coeruleus neurons and brain weight. These data demonstrate that neither alcohol neurotoxicity nor thiamine deficiency result in a reduction in the number of pigmented cells in the locus coeruleus and refute the hypothesis that locus coeruleus cell loss is critical for the amnesia in the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.