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Vision Res. 2019 Aug;161:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2019.05.005. Epub 2019 Jun 5.

Nonlinearities in the flicker electroretinogram: A tool for studying retinal dysfunction applied to early-stage diabetic retinopathy.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1855 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60612, USA; Department of Bioengineering, University of Illinois at Chicago, 851 South Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607, USA. Electronic address:
Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 914 S Wood Street, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1855 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


The flicker electroretinogram (ERG) is typically analyzed in terms of peak-to-trough amplitude and implicit time. However, additional important information may be captured by spectral-domain analysis of the ERG harmonics (responses that occur at multiples of the stimulus frequency). This study describes an approach to analyze the harmonic components of the flicker ERG and its application to patients who have early-stage non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). Of particular interest were the sub-harmonic components occurring at 1.5x and 2.5x the stimulus frequency that produce cycle-to-cycle variation in amplitude termed "period doubling." Twenty visually-normal subjects, 20 diabetic subjects who have no clinically-apparent retinopathy (NDR), and 20 diabetic subjects who have mild NPDR participated. ERGs were recorded in response to sinusoidal flicker (27-63 Hz) and Fourier analysis was performed to extract fundamental and harmonic response amplitudes. Linear quantile mixed models (LQMMs) were used to compare the amplitude of the response components among the three subject groups. Results indicated that the maximum sub-harmonic amplitude occurred in the stimulus frequency range of 33-38 Hz for all subjects. The LQMMs showed a significant sub-harmonic amplitude reduction for the mild NPDR subjects compared to the controls; sub-harmonic amplitude for the NDR subjects did not differ significantly from the controls. In contrast, the fundamental response did not differ among the groups for stimulus frequencies between 33 and 38 Hz. Modeling these results indicated that subharmonic amplitude loss in mild NPDR subjects may be attributed to attenuated feedback occurring early in the retina, possibly at the synapse of cone photoreceptors and OFF bipolar cells.


Diabetic retinopathy; Electroretinogram; Harmonic; Subharmonic

[Available on 2020-08-01]

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