June 13, 2019
2 min read

Researchers: Worse vision associated with worse cognition

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Researchers found that worse vision is associated with worse cognition but also that the association between the two differs by type of vision, according to a poster presented here at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting.

“The association between vision and cognitive function really differs by type of vision, indicating that perhaps there may be some pattern in cognitive function by type of vision impairment,” lead author Bonnielin K. Swenor, MPH, PhD, told Primary Care Optometry News.

Swenor and colleagues evaluated 630 subjects 60 years old and older who were participating in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The mean age was 76 years, 56% were female, most were white, and most were highly educated.

“It is not population based,” Swenor said. “This is not generalizable to the general population.”

They measured visual acuity and contrast using Pelli Robson charts and visual fields, she said, and they evaluated cognitive function using five domains: language, memory, attention, executive function and visual-spatial.

“People with worse-presenting visual acuity scored lower overall – had lower domain scores on language, memory and visual-spatial ability as well as executive function,” Swenor said. “For best corrected acuity, it was just for language. And then for contrast, visual-spatial and executive. In visual fields, they scored worse on language, attention and executive function.

“But the problem is that some of these tests are highly visually dependent, primarily in the executive function domain,” she continued. “So we reran the executive function domain after removing two of the tests that are the most visually demanding and found that for the presenting visual acuity, the effect estimate was truncated and it lost its statistical significance, but contrast remained.”

The association between vision and cognitive function differed by type of vision, indicating a possible pattern in cognitive function by type of impairment.

“So, the type of vision you’re losing may have different relationships with the impact on cognitive function,” she said.

Because this is only cross-sectional data, Swenor said she and her colleagues are accumulating longitudinal data to look at change in cognitive domain scores over time. – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO


Swenor BK, et al. Digging deeper into the vision-cognition relationship: Determining the association between visual function and cognitive domains. Presented at: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology; Vancouver, British Columbia; April 28-May 2, 2019.

Disclosures: Swenor reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see full study for all authors’ financial disclosures.