Evaluation of macular thickness and volume tested by optical coherence tomography as biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease in a memory clinic

Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 31;10(1):1580. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-58399-4.


Building on previous studies that report thinning of the macula in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients, the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) has been proposed as a potential biomarker for AD. However, other studies contradict these results. A total of 930 participants (414 cognitively healthy people, 192 with probable amnestic MCI, and 324 probable AD patients) from a memory clinic were consecutively included in this study and underwent a spectral domain OCT scan (Maestro, Topcon) to assess total macular volume and thickness. Macular width measurements were also taken in several subregions (central, inner, and outer rings) and in layers such as the retinal nerve fiber (RNFL) and ganglion cell (CGL). The study employed a design of high ecological validity, with adjustment by age, education, sex, and OCT image quality. AD, MCI, and control groups did not significantly vary with regard to volume and retinal thickness in different layers. When these groups were compared, multivariate-adjusted analysis disclosed no significant differences in total (p = 0.564), CGL (p = 0.267), RNFL (p = 0.574), and macular thickness and volume (p = 0.380). The only macular regions showing significant differences were the superior (p = 0.040) and nasal (p = 0.040) sectors of the inner macular ring. However, adjustment for multiple comparisons nullified this significance. These results are not supporting existing claims for the usefulness of macular thickness as a biomarker of cognitive impairment in a memory unit. OCT biomarkers for AD should be subject to further longitudinal testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Biomarkers
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macula Lutea / diagnostic imaging*
  • Macula Lutea / pathology
  • Male
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence*


  • Biomarkers