Scientists look for signs of neurological decline in the eye

Small changes within the blood vessels of the eye could give clinicians clues about a patient’s risk of developing memory problems


Research published in Neurology suggests that people with small changes in the blood vessels of their eye at the age of 60 may have a higher risk of cognitive decline at the age of 80 than people with healthy eyes.

Study author, Dr Jennifer Deal, of John Hopkins University, explained that there are difficulties imaging the small blood vessels in the brain.

“Because the blood vessels in the eye and the brain are so similar anatomically, we hypothesised that looking at the blood vessels in the eye would help us understand what was happening in the brain,” she elaborated.

The research involved 12,317 people who took mental tests at the beginning of the study, six years later and 20 years after the first test.

Retinal photos were taken three years after the start of the study, when the average age of the participants was around 60.

The research team found that people with moderate to severe retinopathy were more likely to have bigger drops in their cognitive scores than people who had healthy eyes.