July 2019
Volume 60, Issue 9
Free
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2019
Structure and Metabolism in the Brains of the Congenitally Blind Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Kevin C Chan
    Department of Ophthalmology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States
    Department of Radiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States
  • Antoinette J. Charles
    Department of Ophthalmology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States
  • Ji Won Bang
    Department of Ophthalmology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States
  • Giles Hamilton-Fletcher
    Department of Ophthalmology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States
  • Carlos Parra
    Department of Ophthalmology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States
  • Matthew C. Murphy
    Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
    Department of Radiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, United States
  • Amy C. Nau
    Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
    Korb and Associates, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Kevin Chan, None; Antoinette Charles, None; Ji Won Bang, None; Giles Hamilton-Fletcher, None; Carlos Parra, None; Matthew Murphy, None; Amy Nau, None
  • Footnotes
    Support  This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health R01-EY028125 and T32-EY017271-06; United States Department of Defense DM090217; Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator Grant; BrightFocus Foundation G2013077 and G2016030; and Research to Prevent Blindness/Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Research Collaborators Award
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science July 2019, Vol.60, 4746. doi:https://doi.org/
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      Kevin C Chan, Antoinette J. Charles, Ji Won Bang, Giles Hamilton-Fletcher, Carlos Parra, Matthew C. Murphy, Amy C. Nau; Structure and Metabolism in the Brains of the Congenitally Blind Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(9):4746. doi: https://doi.org/.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Purpose : While recent studies show that blind subjects can recruit the occipital cortex to interact with their visual environment indirectly via their remaining senses, the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, we used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to determine the plasticity in the brains of the blind.

Methods : Nine congenitally blind and 8 sighted subjects underwent anatomical MRI, diffusion tensor MRI (DTI) and MRS in a 3-Tesla Siemens scanner. The sizes of optic chiasm (OC) and superior colliculus (SC) were measured manually on anatomical MRI using ImageJ; The structural integrity of major white matter tracts was assessed using tract-based spatial statistics in DTI, and the metabolic contents in the occipital cortex were estimated using the Syngo software on the spectra in MRS using creatine (Cr) as an internal control.

Results : In anatomical MRI, congenitally blind subjects had significantly smaller OC than sighted controls, whereas no apparent difference was observed in the SC of either hemisphere (Figure 1A, B). In DTI, congenitally blind subjects also showed significantly lower fractional anisotropy in the optic radiation when compared to sighted subjects (Figure 1C). In MRS, congenitally blind subjects exhibited significantly higher glutamate and glutamine complex (Glx) levels compared to sighted subjects in the occipital cortex (Figure 2).

Conclusions : The current findings suggest the involvements of structural and metabolic brain changes along the central visual pathway in congenital blindness compared to sighted subjects. The structural connections between the eye and the occipital cortex of the congenitally blind appeared compromised, whereas the occipital cortex in the congenitally blind appeared more excitatory due to the stronger glutamatergic function from higher glutamate and glutamine levels compared to sighted subjects.

This abstract was presented at the 2019 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Vancouver, Canada, April 28 - May 2, 2019.

 

Figure 1. (A) Illustrations of the OC and SC in anatomical MRI. (B) Group comparisons (mean±SD) of OC and SC sizes. Unpaired t-tests, *p<0.05; (C) Tract-based spatial statistics of significantly lower fractional anisotropy (red/orange) in the congenitally blind than sighted subjects.

Figure 1. (A) Illustrations of the OC and SC in anatomical MRI. (B) Group comparisons (mean±SD) of OC and SC sizes. Unpaired t-tests, *p<0.05; (C) Tract-based spatial statistics of significantly lower fractional anisotropy (red/orange) in the congenitally blind than sighted subjects.

 

Figure 2: (A) Illustrations of spectral quality and voxel localization in the occipital cortex in MRS; (B) Group comparisons (mean±SD) of metabolic ratios in MRS. Unpaired t-tests, *p<0.05.

Figure 2: (A) Illustrations of spectral quality and voxel localization in the occipital cortex in MRS; (B) Group comparisons (mean±SD) of metabolic ratios in MRS. Unpaired t-tests, *p<0.05.

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