Reactivation of the cell cycle, including DNA replication, might play a major role in Alzheimer's disease (AD). A more than diploid DNA content in differentiated neurons might alternatively result from chromosome mis-segregation during mitosis in neuronal progenitor cells. It was our objective to distinguish between these two mechanisms for aneuploidy and to provide evidence for a functional cell cycle in AD. Using slide-based cytometry, chromogenic in situ hybridization, and PCR amplification of alu-repeats, we quantified the DNA amount of identified cortical neurons in normal human brain and AD and analyzed the link between a tetraploid DNA content and expression of the early mitotic marker cyclin B1. In the normal brain, the number of neurons with a more than diploid content amounts to approximately 10%. Less than 1% of neurons contains a tetraploid DNA content. These neurons do not express cyclin B1, most likely representing constitutional tetraploidy. This population of cyclin B1-negative tetraploid neurons, at a reduced number, is also present in AD. In addition, a population of cyclin B1-positive tetraploid neurons of approximately 2% of all neurons was observed in AD. Our results indicate that at least two different mechanisms need to be distinguished giving rise to a tetraploid DNA content in the adult brain. Constitutional aneuploidy in differentiated neurons might be more frequent than previously thought. It is, however, not elevated in AD. In addition, in AD some neurons have re-entered the cell cycle and entirely passed through a functional interphase with a complete DNA replication.