Optical Coherence Tomography in Alzheimer's Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases.Front Neurol. 2017; 8:701.FN
Over the past decade, a surge of evidence has documented various pathological processes in the retina of patients suffering from mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), and other neurodegenerative diseases. Numerous studies have shown that the retina, a central nervous system tissue formed as a developmental outgrowth of the brain, is profoundly affected by AD. Harboring the earliest detectable disease-specific signs, amyloid β-protein (Aβ) plaques, the retina of AD patients undergoes substantial ganglion cell degeneration, thinning of the retinal nerve fiber layer, and loss of axonal projections in the optic nerve, among other abnormalities. More recent investigations described Aβ plaques in the retina located within sites of neuronal degeneration and occurring in clusters in the mid- and far-periphery of the superior and inferior quadrants, regions that had been previously overlooked. Diverse structural and/or disease-specific changes were also identified in the retina of PD, Huntington's disease, and multiple sclerosis patients. The pathological relationship between the retina and brain prompted the development of imaging tools designed to noninvasively detect and monitor these signs in living patients. One such tool is optical coherence tomography (OCT), uniquely providing high-resolution two-dimensional cross-sectional imaging and three-dimensional volumetric measurements. As such, OCT emerged as a prominent approach for assessing retinal abnormalities in vivo, and indeed provided multiple parameters that allowed for the distinction between normal aged individuals and patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Beyond the use of retinal optical fundus imaging, which recently allowed for the detection and quantification of amyloid plaques in living AD patients via a wide-field view of the peripheral retina, a major advantage of OCT has been the ability to measure the volumetric changes in specified retinal layers. OCT has proven to be particularly useful in analyzing retinal structural abnormalities consistent with disease pathogenesis. In this review, we provide a summary of OCT findings in the retina of patients with AD and other neurodegenerative diseases. Future studies should explore the combination of imaging early hallmark signs together with structural-functional biomarkers in the accessible retina as a practical means of assessing risk, disease progression, and therapeutic efficacy in these patients.