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Michal Fiedorowicz, Wojciech Dyda, Robert Rejdak, Pawel Grieb
Med Sci Monit 2011; 17(10): RA227-232
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. It affects retinal ganglion cells and the optic nerve. However, there is emerging evidence that glaucoma also affects other components of the visual pathway and visual cortex. There is a need to employ new methods of in vivo brain evaluation to characterize these changes. Magnetic resonance (MR) techniques are well suited for this purpose. We review data on the MR evaluation of the visual pathway and the use of MR techniques in the study of glaucoma, both in humans and in animal models. These studies demonstrated decreases in optic nerve diameter, localized white matter loss and decrease in visual cortex density. Studies on rats employing manganese-enhanced MRI showed that axonal transport in the optic nerve is affected. Diffusion tensor MRI revealed signs of degeneration of the optic pathway. Functional MRI showed decreased response of the visual cortex after stimulation of the glaucomatous eye. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy demonstrated changes in metabolite levels in the visual cortex in a rat model of glaucoma, although not in glaucoma patients. Further applications of MR techniques in studies of glaucomatous brains are indicated.