The Dunedin Study - DMHDRU


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Associations between retinal nerve layer and ganglion cell layer in middle age and cognition from childhood to adulthood. | 2022
Barrett-Young. A., Ambler, A., Cheyne, K., ... Show all » Guiney, H., Kokaua, J., Steptoe, B., Tham, Y.C., Wilson, G.A., Wong, T.Y., Poulton, R. « Hide
JAMA Opthalmology , 2022, .
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Show abstract » Importance The retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) and ganglion cell layer (GCL) have been proposed as potential biomarkers for Alzheimer disease (AD). Although a number of studies have shown that knowing the thickness of RNFL and GCL can help differentiate between patients with AD and healthy controls, it is unclear whether these associations are observable earlier in life.

Objective To examine whether RNFL and GCL thickness was associated with global cognitive performance in middle age and in childhood and with a decline in cognitive performance from childhood to adulthood and whether RNFL and GCL thickness was associated with decline in specific cognitive domains over the same period.

Design, Setting, and Participants This longitudinal cohort study involved members of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a longitudinal representative birth cohort from New Zealand (n = 1037). Participants were born in 1972 to 1973 and followed up until age 45 years, with 94% of the living cohort still participating.

Main Outcomes and Measures Cognitive performance (Full Scale IQ, processing speed, perceptual reasoning, and verbal comprehension) measured at ages 7, 9, and 11 years (mean value) and age 45 years, and RNFL and GCL thickness measured via optical coherence tomography (OCT) at age 45 years.

Results Data were analyzed between August 2020 and April 2021. Data from 865 participants were included in the present study (50.2% male, 49.8% female; 92.2% of the 938 study members seen at age 45 years). Of the 73 participants who were excluded, 63 were excluded because of issues with OCT scans and 10 were excluded because of diseases affecting the retina. Thinner RNFL and GCL were associated with lower Full Scale IQ in childhood and at age 45 years. Thinner RNFL was also associated with a greater decline in processing speed from childhood to adulthood.

Conclusions and Relevance RNFL and GCL thickness in middle age was associated with cognitive performance in childhood and adulthood, and thinner RNFL with a decline in processing speed between childhood and adulthood. These data emphasize the potential utility of OCT measures as biomarkers of cognitive function; however, further longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether retinal thinning precedes cognitive decline and whether other confounding factors may account for this association.

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