Relationships between retinal axonal and neuronal measures and global central nervous system pathology in multiple sclerosis

JAMA Neurol. 2013 Jan;70(1):34-43. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.573.


Objective: To determine the relationships between conventional and segmentation-derived optical coherence tomography (OCT) retinal layer thickness measures with intracranial volume (a surrogate of head size) and brain substructure volumes in multiple sclerosis (MS).

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

Participants: A total of 84 patients with MS and 24 healthy control subjects.

Main outcome measures: High-definition spectral-domain OCT conventional and automated segmentation-derived discrete retinal layer thicknesses and 3-T magnetic resonance imaging brain substructure volumes.

Results: Peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer as well as composite ganglion cell layer+inner plexiform layer thicknesses in the eyes of patients with MS without a history of optic neuritis were associated with cortical gray matter (P=.01 and P=.04, respectively) and caudate (P=.04 and P=.03, respectively) volumes. Inner nuclear layer thickness, also in eyes without a history of optic neuritis, was associated with fluid-attenuated inversion recovery lesion volume (P=.007) and inversely associated with normal-appearing white matter volume (P=.005) in relapsing-remitting MS. As intracranial volume was found to be related with several of the OCT measures in patients with MS and healthy control subjects and is already known to be associated with brain substructure volumes, all OCT-brain substructure relationships were adjusted for intracranial volume. CONCLUSIONS Retinal measures reflect global central nervous system pathology in multiple sclerosis, with thicknesses of discrete retinal layers each appearing to be associated with distinct central nervous system processes. Moreover, OCT measures appear to correlate with intracranial volume in patients with MS and healthy control subjects, an important unexpected factor unaccounted for in prior studies examining the relationships between peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and brain substructure volumes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Axons / pathology*
  • Caudate Nucleus / pathology
  • Central Nervous System / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Retina* / pathology
  • Retinal Neurons / pathology*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / instrumentation
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods