BACKGROUND: Increasing evidence suggests that metabolism affects brain physiology. Here, we examine the effect of GLP-1 on simple visual-evoked functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) responses in cortical areas. METHODS: Lean (n = 10) and nondiabetic obese (n = 10) subjects received exenatide (a GLP-1 agonist) or saline infusion, and fMRI responses to visual stimuli (food and nonfood images) were recorded. We analysed the effect of exenatide on fMRI signals across the cortical surface with special reference to the visual areas. We evaluated the effects of exenatide on the raw fMRI signal and on the fMRI signal change during visual stimulation (vs rest). RESULTS: In line with previous studies, we find that exenatide eliminates the preference for food (over nonfood) images present under saline infusion in high-level visual cortex (temporal pole). In addition, we find that exenatide (vs saline) also modulates the response of early visual areas, enhancing responses to both food and nonfood images in several extrastriate occipital areas, similarly in obese and lean participants. Unexpectedly, exenatide increased fMRI raw signals (signal intensity during rest periods without stimulation) in a large occipital region, which were negatively correlated to BMI. CONCLUSIONS: In both lean and obese individuals, exenatide affects neural processing in visual cortex, both in early visual areas and in higher order areas. This effect may contribute to the known effect of GLP1 analogues on food-related behaviour.

Residual Visual Responses in Patients With Retinitis Pigmentosa Revealed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Translational Vision Science & Technology, 6 (8), 44.

Purpose: We evaluated the potential of magnetic resonance imaging in identifying signs of cortical visual processing with greater sensitivity than standard ophthalmological measures in patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) at advanced stages.

Methods: Eight patients affected with RP with only bare light perception and weak or absent visual evoked potential (VEP) or electroretinogram (ERG) responses to flashes of light were tested. Visual impairment was evaluated by means of psychophysical testing, where patients were asked to discriminate the drifting direction of a contrast modulated grating. Patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging scanning, and the behavioral performance was correlated with both blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal elicited by flashes of lights and cortical thickness measured in primary visual area.

Results: Contrast sensitivity to drifting gratings of very low spatial and temporal frequency was greatly impaired, yet measurable in all patients. Weak luminance flashes elicited significant BOLD responses in the striate and extrastriate cortex, despite that the stimuli were not perceived during scanning. Importantly, patients with less severe impairment of contrast sensitivity showed stronger V1 BOLD responses. Striate cortical thickness did not correlate with visual sensitivity.

Conclusions: BOLD responses provide a sensitive and reliable index of visual sparing more than VEPs or ERGs, which are often absent in RP patients. The minimal residual vision can be assessed by optimal visual stimulation in two alternative forced choice discrimination tasks and by BOLD responses. Imaging techniques provide useful information to monitor progressive vision loss.

Translational Relevance: Functional magnetic resonance imaging might be a practical tool for assessing visual sparing, as it is more feasible and sensitive than psychophysical or ophthalmological testing.

Binda, P., Eldor, R., Huerta, C., Adams, J., Lancaster, J., Fox, P., et al. (2019). Exenatide modulates visual cortex responses, Diabetes Metab Res Rev, e3167.

BACKGROUND: Increasing evidence suggests that metabolism affects brain physiology. Here, we examine the effect of GLP-1 on simple visual-evoked functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) responses in cortical areas. METHODS: Lean (n = 10) and nondiabetic obese (n = 10) subjects received exenatide (a GLP-1 agonist) or saline infusion, and fMRI responses to visual stimuli (food and nonfood images) were recorded. We analysed the effect of exenatide on fMRI signals across the cortical surface with special reference to the visual areas. We evaluated the effects of exenatide on the raw fMRI signal and on the fMRI signal change during visual stimulation (vs rest). RESULTS: In line with previous studies, we find that exenatide eliminates the preference for food (over nonfood) images present under saline infusion in high-level visual cortex (temporal pole). In addition, we find that exenatide (vs saline) also modulates the response of early visual areas, enhancing responses to both food and nonfood images in several extrastriate occipital areas, similarly in obese and lean participants. Unexpectedly, exenatide increased fMRI raw signals (signal intensity during rest periods without stimulation) in a large occipital region, which were negatively correlated to BMI. CONCLUSIONS: In both lean and obese individuals, exenatide affects neural processing in visual cortex, both in early visual areas and in higher order areas. This effect may contribute to the known effect of GLP1 analogues on food-related behaviour.

Visual Cortical Plasticity in Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Purpose: Retinitis pigmentosa is a family of genetic diseases inducing progressive photoreceptor degeneration. There is no cure for retinitis pigmentosa, but prospective therapeutic strategies are aimed at restoring or substituting retinal input. Yet, it is unclear whether the visual cortex of retinitis pigmentosa patients retains plasticity to react to the restored visual input.

Methods: To investigate short-term visual cortical plasticity in retinitis pigmentosa, we tested the effect of short-term (2 hours) monocular deprivation on sensory ocular dominance (measured with binocular rivalry) in a group of 14 patients diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa with a central visual field sparing greater than 20° in diameter.

Results: After deprivation most patients showed a perceptual shift in ocular dominance in favor of the deprived eye (P < 0.001), as did control subjects, indicating a level of visual cortical plasticity in the normal range. The deprivation effect correlated negatively with visual acuity (r = ?0.63, P = 0.015), and with the amplitude of the central 18° focal electroretinogram (r = ?0.68, P = 0.015) of the deprived eye, revealing that in retinitis pigmentosa stronger visual impairment is associated with higher plasticity.

Conclusions: Our results provide a new tool to assess the ability of retinitis pigmentosa patients to adapt to altered visual inputs, and suggest that in retinitis pigmentosa the adult brain has sufficient short-term plasticity to benefit from prospective therapies.