Ophthalmology and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Group

The Ophthalmology Translational Research Group is led by Dr Tom MacGillivray and Prof Bal Dhillon and aims to understand the mechanisms involved in dementia by using eye imaging techniques.

The back of the eye or retina is an extension to the brain, sharing a blood supply and nerve tissue. It is easily imaged non-invasively by machines that are very quick and comfortable for the person being examined. Many people are familiar with the technology as it is commonly used to check eye health when visiting the high street optician.

The Ophthalmology Group is interested in how images from these machines can be used in new ways with the aim of determining which ones might be most useful for dementia. We are also looking at whether there are any links with the retina and other brain changes such as those seen with MRI brain imaging, and tests of mental ability.

In addition, the group has expertise in computer modelling, through an approach called machine learning, to see whether different markers of change in the human body could be used in combination with each other to determine someone’s future risk of developing dementia.

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Relevant Publications

Suitability of UK Biobank Retinal Images for Automatic Analysis of Morphometric Properties of the Vasculature. MacGillivray, T. J., Cameron, J. R., Zhang, Q., El-Medany, A., Mulholland, C., Sheng, Z., Dhillon, B., Doubal, F. N., Foster, P. J., Trucco, E., Sudlow, C. & UK Biobank Eye and Vision Consortium 23 May 2015 In : PLoS One. 10, 5, p. e0127914

Retinal Vascular Fractal Dimension, Childhood IQ, and Cognitive Ability in Old Age: The Lothian Birth Cohort Study 1936. Taylor, A. M., Macgillivray, T. J., Henderson, R. D., Ilzina, L., Dhillon, B., Starr, J. M. & Deary, I. J. 27 Mar 2015 In : PLoS One. 10, 3, e0121119

Retinal imaging as a source of biomarkers for diagnosis, characterization and prognosis of chronic illness or long-term conditions. Macgillivray, T. J., Trucco, E., Cameron, J., Dhillon, B., Houston, J. G. & Van Beek, E. J. R. Aug 2014 In : British Journal of Radiology. 87, 1040, 16 p., 20130832

Differences in retinal vessels support a distinct vasculopathy causing lacunar stroke. Doubal, F., MacGillivray, T. J., Hokke, P. E., Dhillon, B., Dennis, M. S. & Wardlaw, J. M. 19 May 2009 In : Neurology. 72, 20, p. 1773-1778 6.

Relevant Grants

Leverhulme Trust- Discovery of retinal biomarkers for genetics with large cross-linked datasets- 2011-2015- £221,543

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Multi-modal retinal biomarkers for vascular dementia: developing enabling image analysis tools- 2014-2017-£923,000

Diabetes UK- Improved phenotyping of microvascular changes in Diabetic Retinopathy with Multi-level data-2016-2019-£199,431

SINAPSE & Optos-Assessing neurodegeneration of the retina and brain with ultra-wide-field retinal imaging- 2016-2019-£60,000