The principal biomarker of neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis (MS) is believed to be brain volume, which is associated with cognitive functions and retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL). A cross-sectional and longitudinal assessment of the relationship between RNFL, cognitive functions and brain volume.
At baseline, relapsing patients and healthy controls underwent 1.5 T MRI to estimate the normalized volume of brain (NBV), grey (NGV), white (NWV) and peripheral grey (pNGV) matter. Cognitive functions were evaluated by BICAMS, RNFL by Spectral-Domain OCT. Patients were re-evaluated after 12 months.
Cognitive functions, brain volume, and RNFL differed between the group of 66 patients and that of 16 healthy controls. In the MS group, at baseline, an association was found between: p-NGV and symbol-digit (SDMT) (p = 0.022); temporal-RNFL and NBV (p = 0.007), NWV (p = 0.012), NGV (p = 0.048), and p-NGV (p = 0.021); papillo-macular bundle-RNFL and NBV (p = 0.013), NWV (p = 0.02), NGV (p = 0.049), and p-NGV (p = 0.032). Over the observational period, we found a reduction of brain volume (p < 0.001), average-RNFL (p = 0.001), temporal-RNFL (p = 0.006), and papillo-macular bundle-RNFL (p = 0.009). No association was found between OCT, MRI, and cognitive changes.
Brain volume, cognitive functions, and RNFL are continuous measures of different neurodegenerative aspects. BICAMS and OCT have low costs and can be easily used in clinical practice to monitor neurodegeneration.