Neurodegeneration beyond the primary visual pathways in a population with a high incidence of normal-pressure glaucoma

Christine C Boucard, Sandra Hanekamp*, Branisalava Curcic-Blake, Masahiro Ida, Masaki Yoshida, Frans W Cornelissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose: Glaucoma is the most common age-related neurodegenerative eye disease in western society. It is an insidious disease that, when untreated or detected too late, leads inevitably to blindness. An outstanding issue is whether glaucoma should be considered exclusively an eye disease or also a brain disease. To further examine it, we used Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) to study white matter integrity in a Japanese glaucoma population. This population has a very high incidence of normal-pressure glaucoma, in which optic nerve damage occurs in the absence of the elevated eye pressure that characterises the more common form of glaucoma.

Methods: We performed DTI in 30 participants with normal-pressure glaucoma and 21 age-matched healthy controls. We used voxel-wise tract-based spatial statistics to compare fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity of the white matter of the brain between patients and control group. Whole-brain and region of interest-based analyses served to find associations between diffusion indices and clinical measures of glaucomatous damage.

Results: Fractional Anisotropy was significantly lower in glaucoma patients in a cluster in the right occipital lobe (p <0.05; family-wise error-corrected) comprising fibres of both the optic radiation and the forceps major. Additional analysis confirmed bilateral involvement of the optic radiations and forceps major and additionally revealed damage to the corpus callosum and parietal lobe (p <0.09; family-wise error-corrected). The region of interest-based analysis revealed a positive association between Fractional Anisotropy of the optic radiation and optic nerve damage.

Conclusions: In this specific population, glaucoma is associated with lower Fractional Anisotropy in the optic radiations, forceps major and corpus callosum. We interpret these reductions as evidence for white matter degeneration in these loci. In particular, the degeneration of the corpus callosum suggests the presence of neurodegeneration of the brain beyond what can be explained on the basis of propagated retinal and pre-geniculate damage. We discuss how this finding links to the emerging view that a brain component that is independent from the eye damage plays a role in the aetiology of glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-353
Number of pages10
JournalOphthalmic and physiological optics
Volume36
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May-2016

Keywords

  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • glaucoma
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • neurodegeneration
  • normal-pressure glaucoma
  • OPEN-ANGLE GLAUCOMA
  • LATERAL GENICULATE-NUCLEUS
  • POSTERIOR CORTICAL ATROPHY
  • VOXEL-BASED MORPHOMETRY
  • DIFFUSION-TENSOR
  • OPTIC-NERVE
  • INTRAOCULAR-PRESSURE
  • ALZHEIMERS-DISEASE
  • CLINICAL SEVERITY
  • TENSION GLAUCOMA

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