Study: Eyes may signal brain pathology in schizophrenia

For years researchers have worked with assumptions that abnormalities in the way the brain processes vision contributed to severe problems with the way schizophrenics handled social interactions or distinguished between what's real or not real. But investigators from Mt. Sinai and Rutgers say that a review of the literature revealed structural changes in the eyes of schizophrenics are also linked to the disease, an insight that could eventually change the way the disease is diagnosed and treated.

According to this review, eye abnormalities that include widening small blood vessels, a thinning retinal nerve fiber layer and abnormal electrical responses could help explain hallucinations or serve as a biomarker for a worsening case.

One other conclusion: There have been no reported cases of blind schizophrenics, further strengthening the link between abnormal vision and the disease. But there's a lot of work that remains before these kinds of insights can be put into practice.

"Our analysis of many studies suggests that measuring retinal changes may help doctors in the future to adjust schizophrenia treatment for each patient," said study co-author Richard B. Rosen, MD, Director of Ophthalmology Research, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, and Professor of Ophthalmology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "More studies are needed to drive the understanding of the contribution of retinal and other ocular pathology to disturbances seen in these patients, and our results will help guide future research."

Their work was published online in the journal Schizophrenia Research: Cognition.

- here's the release