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BACKGROUND: Retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness may reflect cerebral status. OBJECTIVE: This study assessed the relationship between RNFL thickness and incident all-cause dementia in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer in Norfolk (EPIC-Norfolk) Eye Study. METHODS: Glaucoma detection with variable corneal compensation (GDx-VCC) and Heidelberg Retinal Tomograph II (HRT II) derived global mean RNFL thickness from dementia-free participants at baseline within the EPIC-Norfolk Eye Study were analyzed. Incident dementia was identified through linkage to electronic medical records. Cox proportional hazard mixed-effects regression models adjusted for key confounders were used to examine the associations between RNFL thickness and incident dementia in four separate models. RESULTS: 6,239 participants were included with 322 cases of incident dementia and mean age of 67.5-years old, with 49.7% women (median follow-up 13.2-years, interquartile range (11.7 to 14.6 years). Greater RNFL thickness (GDx-VCC) was not significantly associated with a lower risk of incident dementia in the full adjusted model [HR per quartile increase 0.95; 95% CI 0.82-1.10]. Similarly, RNFL thickness assessed with HRT II was also not associated with incident dementia in any model (full adjusted model; HR per quartile increase: 1.06; [95% CI 0.93-1.19]. Gender did not modify any associations under study. CONCLUSION: GDx-VCC and HRT II derived RNFL thickness are unlikely to be useful predictors of incident dementia. Higher resolution optical imaging technologies may clarify whether there are useful relationships between neuro-retinal morphology and brain measures.

Original publication




Journal article


J Alzheimers Dis

Publication Date



Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, retinal ganglion cells, retinal nerve fiber layer, scanning laser polarimetry