Looking into the brain through the retinal ganglion cells in psychiatric disorders: A review of evidences

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Jun 2;76:155-162. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2017.03.008. Epub 2017 Mar 20.


Psychiatry and neuroscience research need novel approaches to indirectly investigate brain function. As the retina is an anatomical and developmental extension of the central nervous system (CNS), changes in retinal function may reflect neurological dysfunctions in psychiatric disorders. The last and most integrated retinal relay before visual information transfer to the brain is the ganglion cell layer. Here, based on collected arguments, we argue that these cells offer a crucial site for indirectly investigating brain function. We describe the anatomical and physiological properties of these cells together with measurements of their functional properties named pattern electroretinogram (PERG). Based on ganglion cell dysfunctions measured with PERG in neurological disorders, we argue for the relevance of studying ganglion cell function in psychiatric research. We review studies that have evaluated ganglion cell function in psychiatric and addictive disorders and discuss how changes in PERG measurements could be functional markers of pathophysiological mechanisms of psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: Pattern electroretinogram; Psychiatric disorders; Retina; Retinal ganglion cell; Synaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*