Glaucoma's correlation with the brain


New Orleans, La. — Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that damage the optic nerve. It can lead to vision loss and blindness. In its early stages, glaucoma usually doesn’t have symptoms but can be detected through dilated eye exams. Studies have shown that many patients report anxiety and deficits in visual attention, however, not much is clear about the underlying neural mechanisms. One study presented at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) explored the connection between the brain and glaucoma.

Laura Massi, MSc, along with researchers from many institutions evaluated if and how glaucoma could alter the operational interactions between brain regions, also known as functional connectivity (FC). Their focus was on the habenula, “a subcortical structure of the brain” which helps manage anxiety, stress and visual attention. The habenula is known to receive projections from retinal ganglion cells (RGC), neurons located close to the inner surface of the retina that are responsible for distributing visual stimuli to the brain. They are also vulnerable to damage from glaucoma.

The researchers used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (RSfMRI) to examine the FC of the habenula. Massi and the team found varying FC changes in the habenula in glaucoma patients. These changes also corresponded with the thinning of the inner retina. Their results proved brain involvement in glaucoma and could show why certain glaucoma patients “experience anxiety and visual cognitive deficits with increasing disease severity.”

Massi shared that “the results and conclusions of this abstract could be significant in explaining the anxiety and visual cognition deficits reported by glaucoma patients. A deeper understanding of brain changes in glaucoma could lead to new perspectives about pathogenesis and therapy for the disease that could help in improving the patients' quality of life."

  • Abstract title: Altered functional connectivity of the habenula and its implications in anxiety and visual cognition in glaucoma
  • Presentation start/end time: Tuesday, April 25, 4:30 – 4:45pm CT
  • Location: R04-R05
  • Presentation number: 3262


The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include approximately 10,000 eye and vision researchers from over 75 countries. ARVO advances research worldwide into understanding the visual system and preventing, treating and curing its disorders. Learn more at

Media contact:
Jenniffer Scherhaufer