Neuroimaging and cognitive correlates of retinal Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) measures at late middle age in a twin sample

Chris Moran, Zheng Yang Xu, Hemal Mehta, Mark Gillies, Chris Karayiannis, Richard Beare, Christine Chen, Velandai Srikanth

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Sharing in embryology and function between the eye and brain has led to interest in whether assessments of the eye reflect brain changes seen in neurodegeneration. We aimed to examine the associations between measures of retinal layer thickness using optical coherence tomography (OCT) and multimodal measures of brain structure and function. Using a convenient sample of twins discordant for type 2 diabetes, we performed cognitive testing, structural brain MRI (tissue volumetry), diffusion tensor imaging (white matter microstructure), and arterial spin labelling (cerebral blood flow). OCT images were recorded and retinal thickness maps generated. We used mixed level modelling to examine the relationship between retinal layer thicknesses and brain measures. We enrolled 35 people (18 pairs, mean age 63.8 years, 63% female). Ganglion cell layer thickness was positively associated with memory, speed, gray matter volume, and altered mean diffusivity. Ganglion cell layer thickness was strongly positively associated with regional cerebral blood flow. We found only a limited number of associations between other retinal layer thickness and measures of brain structure or function. Ganglion cell layer thickness showed consistent associations with a range of brain measures suggesting it may have utility as a marker for future dementia risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9562
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2022

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