Macular Ganglion Cell-Inner Plexiform Layer as a Marker of Cognitive and Sensory Function in Midlife

Natascha Merten, Adam J. Paulsen, A. Alex Pinto, Yanjun Chen, Lauren K. Dillard, Mary E. Fischer, Guan Hua Huang, Barbara E.K. Klein, Carla R. Schubert, Karen J. Cruickshanks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Neurodegenerative diseases are public health challenges in aging populations. Early identification of people at risk for neurodegeneration might improve targeted treatment. Noninvasive, inexpensive screening tools are lacking but are of great potential. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) measures the thickness of nerve cell layers in the retina, which is an anatomical extension of the brain and might be indicative of common underlying neurodegeneration. We aimed to determine the association of macular ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer (mGCIPL) thickness with cognitive and sensorineural function in midlife. METHOD: This cross-sectional study included 1,880 Beaver Dam Offspring Study participants (aged 27-93 years, mean 58) who participated in the 10-year follow-up examination. We assessed cognitive function and impairment, hearing sensitivity thresholds and impairment, central auditory processing, visual impairment, and olfactory impairment. We measured mGCIPL using the Cirrus 5000 HD-OCT Macular Cube Scan. Multivariable linear and logistic regression models adjusted for potential confounders were used to determine associations between mGCIPL thickness and cognitive and sensorineural functions, as well as for comparing participants with a thin mGCIPL (1 SD below average) to the remainder in those functions. RESULTS: Thinner mGCIPL was associated with worse cognitive function, worse central auditory function, and visual impairment. We found an association of mGCIPL thickness with hearing sensitivity in women only and no association with impairment in hearing, olfaction, and cognition. Results on the thin group comparisons were consistent. CONCLUSIONS: mGCIPL thickness is associated with cognitive and sensorineural function and has the potential as a marker for neurodegeneration in middle-aged adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e42-e48
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - 16 Sep 2020


  • Biomarker
  • Cognition
  • Retinal thickness
  • Senses
  • Vision


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