Cognitive Function and Its Relationship with Macular Pigment Optical Density and Serum Concentrations of its Constituent Carotenoids

David Kelly, Robert F. Coen, Kwadwo Owusu Akuffo, Stephen Beatty, Jessica Dennison, Rachel Moran, Jim Stack, Alan N. Howard, Riona Mulcahy, John M. Nolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract Background: Macular pigment (MP) levels correlate with brain concentrations of lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z), and have also been shown to correlate with cognitive performance in the young and elderly. Objective: To investigate the relationship between MP, serum concentrations of L and Z, and cognitive function in subjects free of retinal disease with low MP (Group 1, n = 105) and in subjects with AMD (Group 2, n = 121). Methods: MP was measured using customized heterochromatic flicker photometry and dual-wavelength autofluorescence; cognitive function was assessed using a battery of validated cognition tests; serum L and Z concentrations were determined by HPLC. Results: Significant correlations were evident between MP and various measures of cognitive function in both groups (r = –0.273 to 0.261, p≤0.05, for all). Both serum L and Z concentrations correlated significantly (r = 0.187, p≤0.05 and r = 0.197, p≤0.05, respectively) with semantic (animal) fluency cognitive scores in Group 2 (the AMD study group), while serum L concentrations also correlated significantly with Verbal Recognition Memory learning slope scores in the AMD study group (r = 0.200, p = 0.031). Most of the correlations with MP, but not serum L or Z, remained significant after controlling for age, gender, diet, and education level. Conclusion: MP offers potential as a non-invasive clinical biomarker of cognitive health, and appears more successful in this role than serum concentrations of L or Z.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-277
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2015


  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Biomarker
  • Cognitive function
  • Lutein
  • Macular pigment
  • Zeaxanthin


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