Association between retinal vascular measures and brain white matter lesions in schizophrenia

Vittal Korann, Satish Suhas, Abhishek Appaji, Bhargavi Nagendra, Ananth Padmanabha, Arpitha Jacob, Priyanka Devi, Rose Dawn Bharath, Vijay Kumar, Shivarama Varambally, Ganesan Venkatasubramanian, Shyam Vasudeva Rao, Caroll Ab Webers, Tos Tjm Berendschot, Naren P Rao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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OBJECTIVE: Recent studies have examined retinal vascular abnormalities in schizophrenia as retinal vascular imaging is a non-invasive proxy to cerebral microvasculature. However, relation between retinal vascular abnormalities and brain structure is not well examined in schizophrenia. Hence in this study, for the first time, we examined the relationship between retinal vascular measures and brain white matter lesions in schizophrenia. We examined brain white matter lesions as they are considered a predictive marker for future adverse cerebrovascular event.

METHODS: We acquired retinal vascular images of both eyes using a non-mydriatic camera and calculated retinal vascular diameter, tortuosity, trajectory and fractal dimension using validated methods. All patients underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging of bran and we computed white matter hypo-intensities using Freesurfer software. We performed a linear regression analysis to examine the relationship between white matter hypo-intensities and retinal vascular measures controlling for age, sex, fasting blood sugar, creatinine, whole-brain volume, and antipsychotic dose.

RESULTS: The regression model was significant in Schizophrenia patients (R=0.983;R2 =0.966;-F=10.849;p = 0.008) but not in healthy volunteers (R=0.828;R2 =0.686;F=0.182; p = 0.963). Among the retinal vascular measures, arterial tortuosity (β = 0.963;p-0.002), tortuosity (β = -1.002;p = 0.001) and fractal dimension (β = -0.688;p = 0.014) were significant predictors of white matter lesions.

DISCUSSION: The current study's findings support the conclusion that retinal vascular fractal dimension and tortuosity are associated with changes in cerebral white matter and may be considered proxy markers for cerebral microvasculature in schizophrenia. Considering the relationship between white matter lesions and stroke, these observations could have important clinical implications to screen schizophrenia patients for risk of adverse cerebrovascular event.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103042
Number of pages7
JournalAsian Journal of Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Psychosis
  • Fundus
  • Cerebrovascular risk
  • MRI
  • Tortuosity
  • Fractal dimension


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