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Probing ON and OFF Retinal Pathways in Glaucoma Using Electroretinography


Glaucoma is a progressive neurodegenerative disease involving damage and eventually death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that comprise the optic nerve. This review summarizes current understanding of specific RGC type vulnerability in glaucoma and how electroretinography (ERG) may provide an objective measure of these functional perturbations. There is building evidence to suggest that ON RGCs, which respond to light increments, may be more resilient to elevated intraocular pressure and glaucoma, whereas OFF RGCs, which respond to light decrements, may be more susceptible. ERG experiments in nonhuman primates and mice have also shown that the ON- and OFF-pathways can be separated using a variety of techniques such as pattern ERG and the photopic negative response. Another ERG paradigm of interest to separate the ON and OFF responses is a flicker stimulus at varying temporal frequencies. Response to lower temporal frequencies is associated with the ON-pathway, and ERG response to higher frequencies is associated with the OFF-pathway. In mice, experimental glaucoma models have shown greater decreases in ERG response at higher frequencies, suggesting that the OFF-pathway is more susceptible. We also summarize current clinical ERG protocols used for glaucoma and discuss innovations for developing new types of stimuli that can further separate the ON- and OFF-pathways. Applying these novel paradigms that distinguish ON- and OFF-pathways may ultimately improve glaucoma diagnostics and monitoring of glaucoma progression.

Translational relevance

Based on our current understanding of specific RGC type vulnerability in glaucoma, we explore how ERG may provide an objective measure of ON- versus OFF-pathway functional perturbations.

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