The Association Between Retinal Neuronal Layer and Brain Structure is Disrupted in Patients with Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer's Disease.
Both healthy and pathological aging due to Alzheimer's disease (AD) are associated with decreased brain grey matter volume (GMV) and disrupted white matter (WM) microstructure. Thinner macular ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer (GC-IPL) measured by spectral-domain optical coherence tomography has been reported in patients with AD and mild cognitive impairment. Emerging evidence suggested a link between thinner GC-IPL and lower GMV in subjects with no dementia using region-of-interest-based approach. However, it remains unknown whether GC-IPL thickness is associated with brain WM microstructure and how such association differed between normal and cognitively impaired subjects. Here, for subjects with no cognitive impairment (NCI), thinner GC-IPL was associated with lower WM microstructure integrity in the superior longitudinal fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, corticospinal tracts, anterior thalamic radiation, and cingulum regions, while it was weakly associated with lower GMV in visual cortex and cerebellum. Nevertheless, these retina-brain associations were disrupted in the presence of cognitive impairment. Correlations between GMV and GC-IPL were lost in patients with cognitive impairment but no dementia (CIND) and AD patients. GC-IPL was related to WM microstructural disruption in similar regions with decreased significance. In contrast, lower WM microstructure integrity in the fornix showed a trend of correlation with thinner GC-IPL in both CIND and AD but not NCI. Collectively, our findings suggest the possible physiological retina-brain relationship in healthy aging, which might be disrupted by disease-induced changes in patients with cognitive impairment. Longitudinal study with larger patient sample should follow to confirm the disease mechanism behind these retina-brain relationship changes.
Liu, S; Ong, Y-T; Hilal, S; Loke, YM; Wong, TY; Chen, CL-H; Cheung, CY; Zhou, J
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