This technology could be "crucial" to diagnosis.

Optometrists could in the future play a key role in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, the American Optometric Association reports.

According to the association, “a study that used the eyes as a proxy for neural health was internationally lauded for its use of low-cost, in-vivo imaging to potentially detect early cognitive decline.” The research was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2016 in Toronto.

Although Alzheimer’s is irreversible, early detection is important as it allows families time to plan.

Researchers from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London uncovered a link between cognitive ability and the thickness of subjects' retinal nerve fiber layer. They used technology well-known to optometrists — spectral domain optical coherence tomography, or SD-OCT.

"Our findings show a clear association between thinner macular RNFL and poor cognition in the study population," said study author Dr. Fang Ko of Moorfields Eye Hospital. "This demonstrates the potential utility of the eye as a noninvasive measure of neuronal loss, which is linked to cognitive performance, and provides a possible new biomarker for studies of neurodegeneration."

The AOA notes that optometrists get a unique view into the brain without the need for scanning or cutting. The organization adds that “technology such as OCT — already employed in doctors' offices — paints a vivid picture that could be crucial to detection and diagnosis.”

Read more at AOA

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