Vision and vision-related measures in progressive multiple sclerosis

Yael Backner, Panayiota Petrou, Haya Glick-Shames, Noa Raz, Hanna Zimmermann, Rebecca Jost, Michael Scheel, Friedemann Paul, Dimitrios Karussis, Netta Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Over the last few years there has been growing interest in use of visual measures as useful tools for multiple sclerosis (MS) prognosis and tracking. Optic neuritis (ON) being a prevalent and often-presenting symptom of the disease, as well as the high occurrence rate of posterior visual system damage independent of ON (optic radiation lesions), make the visual system a prime candidate for such endeavors. However, while the visual system makes for a convenient model in early stages of MS, processes which may be true in those stages may drastically change as the disease progresses, due to accumulated disease load. Here, we examine whether vision-related tools reflect demyelinative and axonal damage of the visual pathways and may be used for assessment in the clinical setup in progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, in whom disease load may alter the early stage picture. Methods: Forty-eight progressive MS patients, with and without prior optic neuritis (ON), underwent a battery of behavioral tests, visual evoked potential (VEP) tests, optical coherence tomography (OCT), and structural MRI scans, at two time-points. Data were analyzed for stability between visits and for correlation between behavioral and electrophysiological data. Results: All measures were stable between visits. Significant differences were found in all measures between the affected and fellow eyes of ON patients and in VEP latencies between the affected and non-ON eyes. Motion perception differentially correlated with latencies of both ON eyes and with the non-ON eyes. Retinal nerve fiber layer thickness correlated with the latencies of non-ON eyes but not of either ON eye. No difference in lesion load was found between the ON and non-ON patients. Conclusions: ON still leaves its mark in the patient's visual system over time, with all visual measures of the affected eyes notably reduced compared to fellow eyes. Motion perception, reflecting myelination level along the visual pathway, shows its usefulness also in progressive MS. In the non-ON eyes, axonal loss appears to explain prolonged latencies, unlike in ON eyes, where demyelination appears to be the main mechanism. Lastly, the visual measures assessed herein are applicable as valid assessment tools in therapeutic studies.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number455
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Fellow eye
  • Motion perception
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • OCT
  • Optic neuritis
  • VEP

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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