Eye scan reveals information about brain health

I don’t know where the quote originated, but it has been widely said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Now, it appears that they are also a window to the brain as well. It has been reported that an eye scan, of the type commonly in use in ophthalmology, can give neurologists an accurate picture of the progression of multiple sclerosis, and what, if any, brain damage might have occurred as a result of the disease.

Peter A. Calabresi, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says that, “the eye is the window into the brain and by measuring how healthy the eye is, we can determine how healthy the rest of the brain is.”

The eye scans employ no radiation, and can quickly, inexpensively and unobtrusively offer clues to the overall health of the brain. Using optical coherence tomography to measure swelling and inflammation in the inner layers of the retina, Dr.  Calabresi and his team found that these measurements corresponded to inflammation in the brains of MS patients, as determined by MRI scans. The information gleaned from the eye scans, says Calabresi, could help neurologists gauge how far the disease has progressed in the brain.

These findings also widen the scope of the investigation into the basic nature of multiple sclerosis, long believed to be caused by the body’s immune system attacking the fatty tissue, or myelin, in the brain. Since there is no myelin in the deep layers of the eye that are involved in these scans, the possibility is raised that there might be something else going on. “It is really important to know what the immune system is attacking,” Calabresi says. “The treatments we have right now are only moderately effective, so maybe we’re not blocking the right kinds of cells.”

Follow this story in “Futurity,” presenting research news from top universities from all over the world.

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