Pathological changes in the primary visual cortex (Area V1) in Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome

Richard A. Armstrong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter


About 10% of patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome (disease) (CJD) exhibit visual symptoms at presentation and approximately 50% during the course of the disease. The objectives of the present study were to determine, in two subtypes of CJD, viz., sporadic CJD (sCJD) and variant CJD (vCJD), the degree of pathological change in the primary visual cortex (area V1) and the extent to which pathology in V1 may influence visual function. The vacuolation (‘spongiform change’), surviving neurons, glial cell nuclei, and deposits of prion protein (PrP) were quantified in V1 obtained post-mortem in nine cases of sCJD and eleven cases of vCJD. In sCJD, the vacuoles and PrP deposits were regularly distributed along the cortex parallel to the pia mater in clusters with a mean dimension from 450 to 1000 µm. Across the cortex, the vacuolation was most severe in laminae II/III and the glial cell reaction in laminae V/VI. Surviving neurons were most abundant in laminae II/III while PrP deposition either affected all laminae equally or was maximal in lamina II/III. In vCJD, the vacuoles and diffuse PrP deposits were distributed relatively uniformly parallel to the pia mater while the florid deposits were consistently distributed in regular clusters. Across V1, the vacuoles either exhibited a bimodal distribution or were uniformly distributed. The diffuse PrP deposits occurred most frequently in laminae II/III while the florid deposits were more generally distributed. The data suggest that in both sCJD and vCJD, pathological changes in area V1 may affect the processing of visual information in laminae II/III and its transmission from V1 to V2 and to subcortical visual areas. In addition, the data suggest an association in sCJD between the developing pathology and the functional domains of V1 while in vCJD the pathology is more uniformly distributed. These changes could be a factor in the development of poor visual acuity, visual field defects, cortical blindness, diplopia, and vertical gaze palsy that have been observed in Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreutzfeldt-Jakob disease: New Research
EditorsMic J. Stones
PublisherNova Biomedical Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781600213458
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2007


  • Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • primary visual cortex
  • area V1
  • prion protein
  • florid plaque
  • diffuse plaque


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