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Retinal layer assessments as potential biomarkers for brain atrophy in the Rhineland Study.

Scientific reports

Authors: Matthias M Mauschitz, Valerie Lohner, Alexandra Koch, Tony Stöcker, Martin Reuter, Frank G Holz, Robert P Finger, Monique M B Breteler

Retinal assessments have been discussed as biomarkers for brain atrophy. However, available studies did not investigate all retinal layers due to older technology, reported inconsistent results, or were based on small sample sizes. We included 2872 eligible participants of the Rhineland Study with data on spectral domain-optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We used multiple linear regression to examine relationships between retinal measurements and volumetric brain measures as well as fractional anisotropy (FA) as measure of microstructural integrity of white matter (WM) for different brain regions. Mean (SD) age was 53.8 ± 13.2 years (range 30-94) and 57% were women. Volumes of the inner retina were associated with total brain and grey matter (GM) volume, and even stronger with WM volume and FA. In contrast, the outer retina was mainly associated with GM volume, while both, inner and outer retina, were associated with hippocampus volume. While we extend previously reported associations between the inner retina and brain measures, we found additional associations of the outer retina with parts of the brain. This indicates that easily accessible retinal SD-OCT assessments may serve as biomarkers for clinical monitoring of neurodegenerative diseases and merit further research.

© 2022. The Author(s).

PMID: 35177781

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