University of Oulu

Joel Pitkänen, Juha Veijola, Jennifer Barnett, Johanna Liinamaa & Ville Saarela (2022) Optic Nerve Parameters and Cognitive Function in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort Eye Study, Ophthalmic Epidemiology, 29:2, 189-197, DOI: 10.1080/09286586.2021.1910317

Optic nerve parameters and cognitive function in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort Eye study

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Author: Pitkänen, Joel1; Veijola, Juha2; Barnett, Jennifer3;
Organizations: 1Department of Ophthalmology, PEDEGO Research Unit and Medical Research Center, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Psychiatry, Research Unit of Clinical Neuroscience and Medical Research Center, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Finland
3Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge Cognition Ltd, Cambridge, UK
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-09-21


Purpose: The optic nerve head (ONH) is a part of the brain that can be easily studied through the transparent medium of the eye. We explored the relationship between the properties of the optic nerve head, the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) and cognitive function.

Methods: Participants of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort (NFBC) 1966 underwent an ophthalmic and cognitive assessment after randomization at age 46. The ophthalmological parameters obtained were the disc area and the neuroretinal rim volume of the ONH and the average RNFL thickness. The surrogates used for cognitive function were the paired associates learning test (PAL), level of education, grade point average (GPA) and Humphrey 24–2 perimetric test time (HFA). We did exploratory research between the ophthalmological parameters and the surrogates for cognition and the correlations between the surrogates for cognition.

Results: We found that a larger disc area was associated with a higher level of education, faster accomplishment of the HFA (R = −0.065) but a lower GPA (R = −0.084). An increase in neuroretinal rim volume was associated with fewer errors in the PAL test (R = −0.056), higher level of education, higher GPA (R = 0.072) and faster accomplishment of the HFA (R = −0.047). A thicker RNFL was associated with faster accomplishment of the HFA (R = −0.047).

Conclusion: We were able to find statistically significant associations between the parameters of the optic nerve head, the RNFL and cognition in the NFBC Eye study. However, the correlations were negligible at best and of limited predictive value.

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Series: Ophthalmic epidemiology
ISSN: 0928-6586
ISSN-E: 1744-5086
ISSN-L: 0928-6586
Volume: 29
Issue: 2
Pages: 189 - 197
DOI: 10.1080/09286586.2021.1910317
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3125 Otorhinolaryngology, ophthalmology
Funding: This study was supported by the Silmäsäätiö Foundation under Grant 20160006; the Suomen Silmälääkäriyhdistys; the Glaukooma Tukisäätiö Lux Foundation.
Copyright information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.