This project will use a combination of structural and functional measurements to test the hypothesis that early- stage damage in human glaucoma occurs first in the inner plexiform layer (IPL) of the retina ? especially its OFF sub-lamina ? as suggested by murine glaucoma models. In the first Aim, we will use a novel visible-light optical coherence tomograph (VIS OCT) to study structural changes in the retina of glaucoma patients. The newly developed VIS OCT has sufficient image contrast and resolution to segment the IPL boundaries and to define sub-lamination in volumetric OCT data, something not currently possible with existing near-infrared OCT instruments. We will make comparative measurements within the IPL and between the IPL, the ganglion cell layer (GCL) and the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL). Because data from mouse models of glaucoma suggests that early damage occurs preferentially within the OFF sub-lamina of the IPL, we will make separate VIS OCT measurements biased for the OFF- and ON-sublaminae of the IPL and use machine learning approaches to determine whether a similar damage process can be demonstrated in human. To test whether OFF-pathway function is preferentially lost in glaucoma, we will use a novel Steady-State Visual Evoked Potential (SSVEP) paradigm that employs sawtooth increments and decrements to bias the measurement to ON vs OFF pathways, respectively, a paradigm our data suggests discriminates glaucoma from control patients.
The second Aim will optimize this SSVEP measurement for testing localized areas of the visual field.
The third Aim will make comparative measurements of visual-field, VIS OCT and SSVEP loss patterns in a large sample of glaucoma patients and in age- and sex-matched controls. Thickness and interface reflectivity amplitude maps derived from VIS OCT imaging of the RNFL, GCL and IPL including sublaminae will be correlated topographically with visual field defects to assess the relative sensitivity of our structural biomarkers at and near visual field locations with demonstrable losses on conventional (Humphrey) perimetry. Similarly, SSVEP responses from different locations in the visual field will be correlated topographically with visual field loss patterns and to VIS OCT losses, with special emphasis on correlating structural damage in OFF vs ON sub-laminae of the IPL with the functional correlates derived from regional decremental and incremental SSVEPs. Separately and in combination, our structural and functional measurements are designed to provide strong tests of the biological hypothesis that the OFF pathway is preferentially damaged in human glaucoma, and to reveal new biomarkers for the disease.
Improving visual outcomes in glaucoma will require a better understanding of the earliest sites and processes of damage and methods to measure them quickly and accurately in patients. This project will address both needs through a combination of novel Optical Coherence Tomography and electrophysiological measurements. The new imaging and electrophysiological tests that will be developed here, either separately or together, could eventually replace conventional visual field testing which is time-consuming and unreliable.