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Changes in the retina may predict psychosis onset

Research has demonstrated psychosis is associated with alterations in the way the brain process visual information; making it harder to track items, perceive depth, draw contrast between light and dark, recognise facial expressions, etc. There has been little research on whether differences in the retina or eye structures contribute to these disturbances. 

Dr. Rosen and Steven Silverstein, PhD, Director of the Division of Schizophrenia Research at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, examined 170 studies and found multiple indicators of eye abnormalities in psychosis. Including:

  • Widening of small blood vessels in the eyes, perhaps caused by chronic low oxygen supply to the brain. 
  • Thinning of the retinal nerve fiber layer, known to be related to hallucinations and visual acuity 
  • Abnormal electrical responses by retinal cells exposed to light, suggesting cellular-level differences in the eyes

The authors state “Retinal changes may parallel or mirror the integrity of brain structure and function. When present in children, these changes may suggest an increased risk for psychosis. Addition research is needed. It is faster and less expensive to collect data on retinal structure and function, compared to brain structure and function so this may have an important role in future research”. 

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By: Abigail Christine Wright
Last updated: Sunday, 20 September 2015