How the Brain Controls Changes in Eye Pressure and Brain Pressure

Brian C Samuels, MD, PhD
Trustees of Indiana University (Indiana, IN, United States)
Year Awarded:
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013
Award Amount:
Grant Reference ID:
Award Type:
Award Region:
US Midwestern
Recipient of the Thomas R. Lee award for National Glaucoma Research.

Hypothalamic Control of Translaminar Pressure Gradients


For a long time, scientists believed that glaucoma was caused by damage to the nerve in the back of the eye when the pressure inside the eye was too high. Recently, there has been new evidence that pressure inside the brain is also important. We will focus on finding out how the brain controls the pressure in the eye and the brain in an attempt to find new treatment options for patients with glaucoma.


An increase in eye pressure can damage the optic nerve and lead to glaucoma. However, new studies have shown that an eye pressure change may not be the only situation that can cause an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Dr. Brian Samuels and colleagues will study how certain cells within the brain controls the pressure inside both the eye and the brain, because they believe that changes to the pressure in the brain may be just as important in glaucoma. Using rat models, they will identify the exact location of the brain cells that control some of the daily changes in the eye and brain pressure. Once they locate these brain cells, they could be the target for new glaucoma therapies. In addition, discovering how the brain cells control both eye and brain pressure could lead to new treatments of other diseases that affect the brain and nerves.

Research Updates

At this time, the only treatment for patients with open-angle glaucoma is to reduce the eye pressure by using eye drops, laser treatment, or surgery. New evidence shows that the pressure inside the brain may also be very important in the development and progression of glaucoma. Dr. Samuels’ team has been focusing on determining how the brain controls the pressure in the eye as well as the brain. They recently found an area within the brain that can be stimulated to cause both increases in eye pressure as well as brain pressure. Interestingly, the increase in brain pressure occurs about 20 minutes prior to the increase in eye pressure. Dr. Samuels’ team will continue to examine this brain region further to learn how it is causing these increases. They believe that understanding this process may help us determine what causes glaucoma, and they believe it may also lead to new treatment options for patients with glaucoma.

About the Researcher

Dr. Samuels completed his combined M.D./Ph.D. program at Indiana University School of Medicine, earning his doctoral degree in medical neurobiology. He obtained his ophthalmology residency training at the Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). After residency, he completed a two-year clinical and research fellowship in glaucoma at the Duke Eye Center in Durham, NC. Samuels returned to Indiana as an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He and his team of collaborators are focused on identifying how certain areas within the brain help regulate both intraocular pressure as well as intracranial pressure and how these two measures might be involved in the development and progression of glaucoma.


Samuels BC, Hammes NM, Johnson PL, Shekhar A, McKinnon SJ, Allingham RR. Dorsomedial/Perifornical hypothalamic stimulation increases intraocular pressure, intracranial pressure, and the translaminar pressure gradient. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 Oct 23;53(11):7328-35. PubMed Icon Google Scholar Icon