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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1991 January; 54(1): 30–33.
PMCID: PMC1014294

The absolute number of nerve cells in substantia nigra in normal subjects and in patients with Parkinson's disease estimated with an unbiased stereological method.


Using an unbiased stereological technique, the total numbers of pigmented and non-pigmented neurons were estimated in the substantia nigra of seven patients with Parkinson's disease and seven control patients. Compared with the controls, in which the average total number of pigmented neurons was 550,000, the number of neurons was reduced by 66% in the patients. The average total number of non-pigmented neurons was 260,000 in controls and reduced by 24% in the patients. A significant correlation (r = 0.81) existed between the total numbers of pigmented and non-pigmented neurons in the controls, whereas a similar correlation (r = 0.72) in the patients fell just short of statistical significance. The stereological estimates made in this study are unbiased, in that they are independent of nerve cell size, section thickness and of dimensional changes in brain tissue induced by histological procedures. The stereological method is considerably more efficient than previous conventional methods.

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Selected References

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