A recent study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine and published in the journal JAMA Ophthamology has found evidence suggesting that early Alzheimer’s can be detected through an optical coherence tomography scan “OCT“.
Significant brain damage from Alzheimer’s disease can occur years before any symptoms such as memory loss and cognitive decline appear. Scientists estimate that Alzheimer’s-related plaques can build up in the brain two decades before the onset of symptoms, so researchers have been looking for ways to detect the disease sooner.
OCT is a technology that shines a light into the eye to measure retinal thickness as well as the thickness of the fibres in the optic nerve. We currently use optical coherence tomography in our clinic to identify and diagnose many types of retinal abnomalties such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema and macular holes.
In the study it was found that patients with no symptoms of the disease but with elevated levels of the proteins amyloid or tau, which are markers for the onset of Alzheimers, had a significant thinning in the central part of the retina.
Co-principal investigator Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD said, “We know the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease starts to develop years before symptoms appear, but if we could use this eye test to notice when the pathology is beginning, it may be possible one day to start treatments sooner to delay further damage.”
These findings are not surprising given how interconnected the retina and central nervous system are. The eyes truly are a window into the mind.
You can read an abstract of the research by clicking this link. Early Detection Alzheimer’s.