Background: Visual impairment is a common comorbidity in people living with dementia. Addressing sources of visual difficulties can have a significant impact on the quality of life for people living with dementia and their caregivers. Depth perception problems are purportedly common in dementia and also contribute to falls, visuomotor task difficulties, and poorer psychosocial well-being. However, depth perception and binocular vision are rarely assessed in dementia research. Sleep fragmentation is also common for people living with dementia, and binocular cooperation for depth perception can be affected by fatigue. Pupillary responses under cognitive load also have the potential to be a risk marker for cognitive decline in people living with dementia and can be combined with the above measures for a comprehensive evaluation of clinical visual changes in people living with dementia and their relation to changes in cognitive status, sleep quality, and cortical structure or function.
Objective: This study aims to characterize the nature of clinical visual changes and altered task-evoked pupillary responses that may occur in people living with dementia and evaluate whether these responses relate to changes in cognitive status (standardized Mini Mental State Examination [MMSE] score), Pittsburgh sleep quality index, and cortical structure or function.
Methods: This proposed exploratory observational study will enroll ≤210 people with recently diagnosed dementia (within the last 24 months). The following parameters will be assessed on 3 occasions, 4 months apart (plus or minus 2 weeks): visual function (visual acuity and contrast sensitivity), binocular function (motor fusion and stereopsis), task-evoked pupillary responses (minimum and maximum pupil size, time to maximum dilation, and dilation velocity), cognitive status (MMSE score), and sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index). A subset of patients (n=30) with Alzheimer disease will undergo structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging at first and third visits, completing a 10-day consensus sleep diary to monitor sleep quality, verified by sleep actimetry.
Results: This research was funded in February 2018 and received National Health Service Research Ethics Committee approval in September 2018. The data collection period was from October 1, 2018, to November 30, 2019. A total of 24 participants were recruited for the study. The data analysis is complete, with results expected to be published before the end of 2020.
Conclusions: Findings will demonstrate how often people with dementia experience binocular vision problems. If frequent, diagnosing and treating them could improve quality of life by reducing the risk of falls and fine visuomotor task impairment and by relieving psychosocial anxiety. This research will also demonstrate whether changes in depth perception, pupillary responses, and quality of vision relate to changes in memory or sleep quality and brain structure or function. If related, these quick and noninvasive eye tests help monitor dementia. This would help justify whether binocular vision and pupillary response testing should be included in dementia-friendly eye-testing guidelines.
International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID): RR1-10.2196/16089