Researchers in the US have found that changes in the blood vessels of the eye are associated with a greater decline in people’s memory and language skills over a 20-year period. Their findings were published in the scientific journal, Neurology.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Exploring how our eyes can shed light on changes underway in the brain is an area that is attracting more and more research attention. As the brain is so well protected we can only visualise it indirectly, often through expensive brain scans. The retina offers a potentially valuable window into the brain, and it can be studied with cheaper, non-invasive eye scans.

“While this research highlights a specific change in the retina that may be linked to a decline in memory and thinking skills, it didn’t investigate whether these changes were related to a higher risk of dementia. There is a desperate need for better ways to diagnose the diseases that cause dementia so that people can get access to support, treatments and opportunities to take part in research. Further studies will be needed to evaluate whether techniques like this could one day support doctors making a diagnosis in the clinic and continued investment in research is vital to ensure this progress.”