Abstract Methylazoxymethanol (MAM)-induced microencephalic aged animals with reduced cortical mass and unmodified basal nucleus were used to study the relationship between cells that produce and cells that utilize NGF. Total cortical ChAT activity of MAM 2, 19 and 27 month old animals was reduced compared to their age-matched controls. To verify whether the reduction of enzyme activity can be ascribed to changes in or ablation of projecting neurons, we carried out immunohistochemical analysis of ChAT and low affinity NGF receptor (p75NGFR) in the basal nucleus of control and MAM-treated animals. ChAT and p75NGFR immunostaining of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons showed morphological changes in MAM animals, as revealed by cellular atrophy, reduced dendritic arborization and decreased staining intensity. In the cerebral cortex of microencephalic animals, reduced levels of NGF compared to controls were observed at all examined ages. These results suggest that MAM treatment induces long-lasting ablation of cortical NGF-synthesizing cells leading to reduced trophic support to basal forebrain cholinergic neurons, which might be responsible for the cellular atrophy observed in the basal nucleus.