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Prog Retin Eye Res. 2007 Jan;26(1):38-56. Epub 2006 Nov 27.

Retinotopic organization of primary visual cortex in glaucoma: Comparing fMRI measurements of cortical function with visual field loss.

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Hamilton Glaucoma Center, Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, San Diego, CA 92093-0946, USA.


Primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) is a progressive optic neuropathy characterized by retinal ganglion cell loss. Experimental primate glaucoma indicates neuronal degeneration of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and activity changes in the visual cortex (V1). Neuronal degeneration has also been shown in a post-mortem human study of the optic nerve, LGN and visual cortex. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a non-invasive means of inferring function-specific neuronal activity, provides an opportunity to evaluate glaucomatous changes in neuronal activity throughout the visual pathway in vivo. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that the relationship between visual field loss in human POAG and the functional organization of V1 can be measured using novel fMRI analysis methods. Visual field defects were measured using standard automated perimetry (SAP). A retinotopic map of visual space was obtained for V1, and the retinotopy data was fit with a template. The template was used to project regions within the visual field onto a flattened representation of V1. Viewing through the glaucomatous vs. fellow eye was compared by alternately presenting each eye with a scotoma-mapping stimulus. The resulting blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) fMRI response was compared to interocular differences in thresholds for corresponding regions of the visual field. The spatial pattern of activity observed in the flattened representation agreed with the pattern of visual field loss. Furthermore, the amplitude of the BOLD response was correlated on a pointwise basis with the difference in sensitivity thresholds between the glaucomatous and fellow eyes (r = 0.53, p < 0.0001). The BOLD signal in human V1 is altered for POAG patients in a manner consistent with the loss of visual function. FMRI of visual brain areas is a potential means for quantifying glaucomatous changes in neuronal activity. This should enhance our understanding of glaucoma, and could lead to new diagnostic techniques and therapies.

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