Schizophrenia and the retina: Towards a 2020 perspective

Steven M. Silverstein, Samantha I. Fradkin, Docia L. Demmin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Differences between people with schizophrenia and psychiatrically healthy controls have been consistently demonstrated on measures of retinal function such as electroretinography (ERG), and measures of retinal structure such as optical coherence tomography (OCT). Since our 2015 review of this literature, multiple new studies have been published using these techniques. At the same time, the accumulation of data has highlighted the “fault lines” in these fields, suggesting methodological considerations that need greater attention in future studies. Methods: We reviewed studies of ERG and OCT in schizophrenia, as well as data from studies whose findings are relevant to interpreting these papers, such as those on effects of the following on ERG and OCT data: comorbid medical conditions that are over-represented in schizophrenia, smoking, antipsychotic medication, substance abuse, sex and gender, obesity, attention, motivation, and influences of brain activity on retinal function. Results: Recent ERG and OCT studies continue to support the hypothesis of retinal structural and functional abnormalities in schizophrenia, and suggest that these are relevant to understanding broader aspects of pathophysiology, neurodevelopment, and neurodegeneration in this disorder. However, there are differences in findings which suggest that the effects of multiple variables on ERG and OCT data need further clarification. Conclusions: The retina, as the only component of the CNS that can be imaged directly in live humans, has potential to clarify important aspects of schizophrenia. With greater attention to specific methodological issues, the true potential of ERG and OCT as biomarkers for important clinical phenomena in schizophrenia should become apparent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-94
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Dopamine
  • Electroretinography (ERG)
  • Histamine
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
  • Perception
  • Retina
  • Schizophrenia
  • Vision


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