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    Retina geography not associated with cognitive decline

    Retinal vascular changes do not show non-pathological age-related cognitive decline, researchers say. The study does not rule out the use of retinal information in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

    Retinal vascular changes do not show non-pathological age-related cognitive decline, researchers say. The study, however, does not rule out the use of retinal information in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

    Sarah McGrory and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, published the finding in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

    The retina offers a potential non-invasive window into changes in the brain. Previous research has shown associations between retinopathy and retinal branching parameters, poorer verbal memory, information processing speed, and executive function. However, these associations appear stronger in younger people than in older ones.

    Some research suggests that about half of the variance in cognitive status in later life is associated with childhood intelligence quotient (IQ), but it is challenging to find data with which to study that relationship.

    A study of retinal vascular abnormalities found differences between people with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy people of the same age. In particular, those with high neocortical plaque burden had increased arteriolar length-to-diameter ratio (LDR) (a measure of vessel width) and venular branching asymmetry factor values.

    The authors could not find any studies examining the relationship between LDR and non-pathological cognitive ageing.

    They examined the relationship of this and other retinal parameters in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, a large population of healthy older adults whose IQ scores were measured when they were 11 years old and again when they were older adults.

    Most of the participants took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947, which tested the intelligence of almost all Scottish schoolchildren born in 1936.

    McGrory and her colleagues cross-referenced this data with digital retinal photographs and cognitive tests obtained in tests of 570 subjects completed from 2008 to 2010 when the participants were about 73 years old. The sample was 51.5% male.

    In bivariate analyses, the researchers found few retinal vascular parameters that have an association with cognitive ability either when the subjects were children or when they were older adults, or with changes in cognitive ability over that time.

    Negative associations

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