Neuronal density in the human retinal ganglion cell layer from 16-77 years

Alison Harman, Brett Abrahams, Stephen Moore, Robert Hoskins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Literature assessing whether or not neurons (retinal ganglion cells and displaced amacrine cells) are lost from the retinal ganglion cell layer in mammals with age is still controversial, some studies finding a decrease in cell density and others not. To date there have been no studies estimating the total number of neurons in the retinal ganglion cell layer of humans throughout life. Recent studies have concentrated on the macular region and examined cell densities, which are reported to decrease during aging. In a study of the human retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), we showed that, while RPE cell number does not change, cell density increases significantly in central temporal retina (macular region) as the retina ages. We speculated that the increase in density represents a 'drawing together' of the retinal sheet to maintain high cell densities, in this region of the neural retina, in the face of presumed cell loss from the ganglion cell layer due to aging. Here, therefore, we have sampled the entire ganglion cell layer of the human retina and estimated total neuron numbers in 12 retinae aged from 16 to 77 years. Human retinae, fixed in formalin, were obtained from the Queensland Eye Bank and whole-mounted, ganglion cell layer uppermost. The total number of neurons was lower in the older than younger retinae and neuronal density was lower in most retinal regions in older retinae. Retinal area increased with age and neuronal density fell throughout the retina with a mean reduction of 0.53% per year. However, the percentage reduction in density was much lower for the macular region, with a value of 0.29% per year. It is possible that this lesser reduction in cell density in the macula is a result of the drawing together of the retinal sheet in this region as we speculated from RPE data. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-131
Number of pages8
JournalThe Anatomical record
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Cell death
  • Cell topography
  • Human

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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