Altered Outer Retinal Structure, Electrophysiology and Visual Perception in Parkinson's Disease

Katie K N Tran, Pei Ying Lee, David I Finkelstein, Allison M McKendrick, Bao N Nguyen, Bang V Bui, Christine T O Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Visual biomarkers of Parkinson's disease (PD) are attractive as the retina is an outpouching of the brain. Although inner retinal neurodegeneration in PD is well-established this has overlap with other neurodegenerative diseases and thus outer retinal (photoreceptor) measures warrant further investigation.

OBJECTIVE: To examine in a cross-sectional study whether clinically implementable measures targeting outer retinal function and structure can differentiate PD from healthy ageing and whether these are sensitive to intraday levodopa (L-DOPA) dosing.

METHODS: Centre-surround perceptual contrast suppression, macular visual field sensitivity, colour discrimination, light-adapted electroretinography and optical coherence tomography (OCT) were tested in PD participants (n = 16) and controls (n = 21). Electroretinography and OCT were conducted before and after midday L-DOPA in PD participants, or repeated after ∼2 hours in controls.

RESULTS: PD participants had decreased center-surround contrast suppression (p < 0.01), reduced macular visual field sensitivity (p < 0.05), color vision impairment (p < 0.01) photoreceptor dysfunction (a-wave, p < 0.01) and photoreceptor neurodegeneration (outer nuclear layer thinning, p < 0.05), relative to controls. Effect size comparison between inner and outer retinal parameters showed that photoreceptor metrics were similarly robust in differentiating the PD group from age-matched controls as inner retinal changes. Electroretinography and OCT were unaffected by L-DOPA treatment or time.

CONCLUSIONS: We show that outer retinal outcomes of photoreceptoral dysfunction (decreased cone function and impaired color vision) and degeneration (i.e., outer nuclear layer thinning) were equivalent to inner retinal metrics at differentiating PD from healthy age-matched adults. These findings suggest outer retinal metrics may serve as useful biomarkers for PD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-180
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Parkinson's Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2024


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