Structural MRI-based assessment of the visual pathways in late-stage glaucoma


Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. It is a neurodegenerative disease of the optic nerve which results in characteristic functional and structural changes and eventually in blindness. While it has its origin in optic nerve damage, it ultimately affects the entire visual pathways from the eye to the brain. Restoring vision in advanced glaucoma, the overall goal of this program, also requires us being able to assess damage and putative optic nerve regrowth. In this project, we aim to do so using high-resolution MRI-based structural assessment of the remaining and restored visual pathways.

We will use diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI) to assess structural integrity, damage and regrowth of visual tract and optic nerve structure. We will combine this with advanced computational analyses and search for the limits of what is possible with these techniques. We will also compare our results to those obtained with Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), the current gold standard for eye-based neural assessment. Project results will find their use both in staging patients, as well as in assessing therapeutic effects. Candidates with the skills and interest to do so, may also apply new zoom-scan MRI-sequences to increase resolution. We may also rescan patients assessed previously to detect longitudinal changes in structural connectivity.

What can you expect?
You will learn to use DWI at 3 and 7 Tesla magnetic field strengths in combination with advanced computational analyses to quantify optic nerves and tracts in terms of fiber density and fiber cross section at different stages of glaucoma, with a focus on patients with advanced glaucoma. Besides such project specific skills, you will also be able to gain experience with and expert insight into glaucoma care and ophthalmic assessments including perimetry and OCT. You will become part of a vibrant, interdisciplinary research team and benefit from broad and extensive academic exchange in our national and international scientific networks.

You will be embedded in in the Laboratory of Experimental Ophthalmology (PI: Cornelissen) which tightly collaborates with the Center for Neuroscience (CNC; PI: Renken) both at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) of the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, and (2) the Section for Clinical and Experimental Sensory Physiology of the Department of Ophthalmology of the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany (PI: Hoffmann). Both sites have a focus on the basic and translational investigation of structure and function in health and eye and brain diseases, including glaucoma.

Who are we looking for?
You have a deep interest in translational and basic vision science and are interested in pursuing a career in neuroscience. Experience with quantitative approaches in neuroscience and well-developed programming skills (e.g. Python, R, MatLab) are close-to-essential requirements. Experience in systematic data-acquisition, brain-imaging, scientific writing and communication are all desirable skills. Candidates with a background in vision science, neuroscience, neuroimaging, engineering, experimental psychology, ophthalmology, biology, physiology, physics, mathematics or commensurate experiences will be considered.


  • Shereif Haykal, Nomdo M. Jansonius and Frans W. Cornelissen (2021). Progression of Visual Pathway Degeneration in Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma: A Longitudinal Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience:
  • Shereif Haykal; Branislava Ćurčić-Blake; Nomdo M. Jansonius; Frans W. Cornelissen (2019). Fixel-Based Analysis of Visual Pathway White Matter in Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science:
  • S. Haykal, A. Invernizzi, J. Carvalho, N.M. Jansonius and F.W. Cornelissen (2022). Microstructural Visual Pathway White Matter Alterations in Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma: A Neurite Orientation Dispersion and Density Imaging Study. American Journal of Neuroradiology:
  • Prabhakaran G, Al-Nosairy K, Tempelmann C, Wagner M, Thieme H, Hoffmann MB (2021). Functional dynamics of deafferented early visual cortex in glaucoma. Frontiers in Neuroscience: