January 17, 2021

White matter alterations in glaucoma and vision-deprived brains differ outside the visual system

The degree to which glaucoma has effects beyond the eye – in the brain – is unclear. We investigated white matter microstructure (WMM) alterations in 37 tracts of patients with glaucoma, monocular blindness and controls. We used reproducible methods and the advanced cloud computing platform brainlife.io. White matter tracts were subdivided into seven categories ranging from primarily involved in vision (the visual white matter) to primarily involved in cognition and motor control. WMM in both glaucoma and monocular blind subjects was lower than controls in the visual white matter, suggesting neurodegenerative mechanisms due to reduced sensory inputs. In glaucoma participants WMM differences from controls decreased outside the visual white matter. A test-retest validation approach was used to validate these results. The pattern of results was different in monocular blind participants, where WMM properties increased outside the visual white matter as compared to controls. The pattern of results suggests that whereas in the blind loss of visual input might promote white matter reorganization outside of the early visual system, such reorganization might be reduced or absent in glaucoma. The results provide indirect evidence that in glaucoma unknown factors might limit the brain plasticity effects that in other patient groups follow visual loss.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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