Simple Eye Exam Can Help Diagnose Brain Disorder

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In today’s world, scientists have discovered a simple eye exam that can help precisely diagnose a progressive neurodegenerative condition called frontotemporal degeneration. Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) is amid the most common causes of midlife dementia, and is mostly misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s, or vice versa.

Researchers at University of Pennsylvania in the United States are using an inexpensive, non-invasive, eye-imaging method discovered that patients with FTD displayed thinning of the outer retina, which are the layers with the photoreceptors through which we see. The retina has the ability to be affected by neurodegenerative disorders because it is a projection of the brain.

Previous studies have discovered a loss of optic nerve fibbers and connected thinning of the inner retina in a few other neurodegenerative disorders that include ALS and Alzheimer’s.

The new findings indicate that FTD manifests in a different way in the structures of the retina, and is able to be detected with a retinal-imaging test, could help doctors differentiate one disorder from another.

“Our finding of outer retina thinning in this carefully designed study suggests that specific brain pathologies may be mirrored by specific retinal abnormalities,” stated Benjamin Kim, assistant professor at University of Pennsylvania.

The study included 38 FTD patients and 44 control subjects who did not have any neurodegenerative disease. The FTD patients were specifically characterized with clinical exams, cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers to eliminate Alzheimer’s Disease, and genetic testing.

The researchers then implemented an eye-imaging technology called spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT), which uses a safe light beam to image tissue with micron-level resolution. SD-OCT imaging is not expensive, non-invasive, and fast.

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