Understanding brains is one of the largest research topics within science and with so many different areas; it’s easy to see why the subject is so fascinating to study. The eyes are often said to be the window of the soul, but it’s much more accurate to say that our eyes are actually the window to our brains.
Through the use of an ophthalmoscope and a directed light, opticians can see the optic nerve – amongst other areas – which sends visual messages from the retina to the brain. Through this process, we can diagnose a range of neurological diseases such as a stroke or multiple sclerosis. Because the optic nerve tends to swell, a trained optician is also able to diagnose high blood pressure, glaucoma and diabetes, amongst other health problems.
OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) is a fairly new method that allows the retina to be examined in great detail. This is, however, unsuitable to use on children as they don’t stand still long enough for the scan to take place and it is undetermined how a “normal” retina should look when examining a child’s eye due to the quick and vast changes constantly taking place. Currently, a research team at the University of Leicester Ulverscroft Eye Unit are carrying out studies on what is normal and abnormal when it comes to retina development and they have found that, at birth, the retina is immature, meaning the light sensors in the retina are very small – but they continue to grow and develop throughout the infant’s childhood.
With research in this area developing each day, knowledge is being gained about the brain through more accessible routes such as through everyday eye tests. These tests can determine many health risks where they may have otherwise been missed and whilst there is still plenty of research to be done in this field, the findings so far are fascinating.