Researchers from the University Hospital Bonn (UKB) and Deutsches Zentrum fur Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen have discovered a close connection between retinal structures and those of the brain. These findings are provided in the journal Science and Technology.
DZNE, a large-scale population study in the Bonn city area, is considering key factors for a healthy life. Determining biomarkers for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases is one of the research''s goals. The retina, for which the DZNE closely cooperates with the United Kingdom, is evidenced to be capable of forming a brain so to speak. Compared to previous studies, we utilized more advanced technology and compared a large group of individuals.
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The retina was assessed using spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT), a technique used to provide detailed images of the retina and its various layers. These tests were then performed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This allowed for automated identification and determination of thickness and volumes, both of the different retinal layers and the different brain structures. Dr. Matthias M. Mauschitz is the first author of the present study.
Thinner Retinal Layers and Reduced Brain Volume
A close connection between the inner retina and the so-called white matter in the brain was found, according to Mauschitz. In contrast, sections of the outer retina were mainly related to the gray matter of the cerebral cortex. Interestingly, the thickness of different retinal layers correlated closely with the volume of the hippocampus. This is an area of the brain that plays a major role in memory and is often affected by dementia, according to Prof. Dr. Robert P. Finger, a senior ophthalmologist.
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According to Dr. Monique M. Breteler, the retina''s population health facility is relatively simple, non-invasive, and inexpensive. SD-OCT measurements may serve as biomarkers for brain atrophy and to monitor the progression of certain neurodegenerative diseases. Further population-based studies as well as clinical studies are now required to verify these results in a clinical setting.