Early Brain Changes and Visual and Motor Functions in Glaucoma

Kevin Chan, PhD
New York University School of Medicine (New York, NY)

Co-Principal Investigators

Joel Schuman, MD
New York University Langone Medical Center
Rakie Cham, PhD
University of Pittsburgh
Year Awarded:
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018
Award Amount:
Grant Reference ID:
Award Type:
Award Region:
US Northeastern
Kevin Chan, PhD

Widespread Structural and Functional Brain Changes and Visuomotor Impairments in Glaucoma


Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, and falls are a major health concern in glaucoma patients. Recently, increasing evidence suggests that glaucoma is not an eye-only disease but also involves widespread changes in the brain; however, its causes and the potential clinical and behavioral effects on visuomotor function remain unclear. The goal of the project is to understand how glaucoma may impair the brain structurally and functionally within and beyond the visual pathway, and whether the brain changes in glaucoma are associated with early vision loss or balance and mobility impairments. The findings will improve our understanding of the mechanisms of visuomotor impairments in glaucoma and ultimately guide vision preservation and falls-related interventions to individual patients.


Our laboratory is investigating how glaucoma may impair the brain structurally and functionally, and whether the brain changes in glaucoma are associated with early vision loss or balance and mobility impairments in our patients. We are using the non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to take pictures of different aspects of the brain in our patients, with an aim to detect and monitor the disease events, to identify early glaucoma mechanisms and eye-brain-behavior relationships, and to guide therapeutic strategies in the visual system, which may help reduce the burden of this leading cause of irreversible but preventable visual impairment. In addition, since falls are a major health concern in glaucoma patients, we are investigating the brain mechanisms of balance or mobility impairments in our patients in order to help identify patients at increased risk of falls, to develop and implement falls rehabilitation programs, and to monitor the impact of intervention measures on the mechanisms contributing to falls.

When the study is completed, this project will offer a non-invasive and optimized multi-modal visualization platform for determining the glaucoma pathophysiology in the brain for clinical and translational research. The improved understanding of the structural and functional brain changes that occur both along and beyond the visual pathway could expedite the development of early diagnosis and targeted interventions to improve visuomotor outcomes and help prevent falls in patients with this disease.

About the Researcher

Dr. Chan is an assistant professor in the Departments of Ophthalmology and Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. His laboratory focuses on developing and applying new methods for non-invasively imaging neurodegeneration, neurodevelopment, neuroplasticity, and neuroregeneration in vision-related diseases and injuries in order to guide vision preservation and restoration. Dr. Chan has over 10 years of experience in structural, metabolic and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research in the eye and brain of humans and animal models of glaucoma and other visual impairments. He completed his doctoral studies in biomedical engineering (neuroimaging) at The University of Hong Kong and was awarded the Li Ka Shing Prize for the best PhD thesis at the University. He is recently selected by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) as a 2015 Emerging Vision Scientist. In addition, he is a Junior Fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, and a 2009-10 Fulbright Scholar. Dr. Chan received the BrightFocus Foundation National Glaucoma Research Awards in 2013 and 2016, and the Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator Award in 2014. He is currently the deputy editor of the Neuroimaging section of Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, associate editor of IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, and editorial board member of Frontiers in Brain Imaging Methods and Neural Regeneration Research.

Personal Story

This is our second BrightFocus Foundation National Glaucoma Research Award on glaucoma neuroimaging research. The team is excited to be involved in this research effort, and appreciates BrightFocus donors’ continued support.

Don't miss out.
Receive research updates, inspiring stories, and expert advice
Please enter your first name.
Please enter your last name.
Keep me informed about: *
Please select at least one.
You must select at least one disease category.