The retina: a window to the brain
Sunday, June 16 2013 | 00 h 00 min | News
The size of retinal blood vessels may indicate brain health, which could help detect early signs of dementia and other cognitive diseases.
Scientist Idan Shalev of Duke University wondered whether intelligence might serve as a marker indicating the health of the brain, and specifically the health of the system of blood vessels that provides oxygen and nutrients to the brain. To investigate this idea, he used digital retinal imaging. Retinal blood vessels are similar in size to those in the brain and provide clues to brain health.
After testing 1,000 people, the researchers discovered that having wider retinal venules was linked with lower IQ scores at age 38. These individuals had cognitive deficits, including verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and executive functioning.
“Digital retinal imaging is a tool that is being used today mainly by eye doctors to study diseases of the eye,” said Shalev. “But our initial findings indicate that it may be a useful investigative tool for psychological scientists who want to study the link between intelligence and health across the lifespan.”