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Retina can help reveal brain health

Diseased blood vessels in eye are linked to impaired mental function

5:04pm, March 14, 2012

The eyes are a window to the soul, but also to the brain. The health of easy-to-check blood vessels in the retina reflects the health of blood vessels deep inside the head, findings that raise the possibility of a simple eye exam catching early signs of brain trouble, scientists report in the March 27 Neurology.

“The potential is very great — to use the eye to diagnose what’s going on elsewhere in the body, particularly in the brain,” says neuroscientist Alistair Barber of Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey. “The retina is relatively easy to see. The brain is not.”

The findings add to the growing number of studies focusing on blood vessels that link eye and brain health. The Neurology study was conducted as part of the Women’s Health Initiative, which tracks the health of postmenopausal women. Over 10 years, researchers led by epidemiologist and biostatistician Mary Haan of the University of Califo

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