The involvement of macular preganglionic elements’ function, during the neurodegenerative process of multiple sclerosis (MS), is controversial. In this case-control observational and retrospective study, we assessed multifocal electroretinogram (mfERG) responses from 41 healthy Controls, 41 relapsing-remitting MS patients without optic neuritis (ON) (MS-noON Group) and 47 MS patients with ON: 27 with full recovery of high-contrast best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) (MS-ON-G Group) and 20 with poor recovery (between 0.2 and 1 LogMAR) of BCVA, (MS-ON-P Group). In the latter Group, Sd-OCT macular volumes and thicknesses of whole and inner and outer retina were measured. MfERG N1 and P1 implicit times (ITs), and N1-P1 response amplitude densities (RADs), were measured from concentric rings (R) with increasing foveal eccentricity: 0–5° (R1), 5–10° (R2), 10–15° (R3), 15–20° (R4), 20–25° (R5), and from retinal sectors (superior, nasal, inferior and temporal) between 0–15° and 0–25°. In the MS-ON-P Group, mean mfERG RADs detected from R1 (0–5°) and from the central nasal sector (0–15°) were significantly reduced (p
< 0.01) with respect to those of the Control, MS-noON and MS-ON-G Groups. No other significant differences between Groups for any mfERG parameters were found. All Sd-OCT measurements, apart from the inner retina macular volume in the central 1 mm, were significantly reduced in MS-ON-P patients compared to Controls. The functional impairment in the MS-ON-P Group was associated but not correlated with structural changes of the outer and inner retinal layers in corresponding retinal Areas and Sectors. Our results suggest that in MS, exclusively after ON with poor recovery of BCVA, the neurodegenerative process can induce dysfunctional mechanisms involving photoreceptors and bipolar cells of the fovea and of the more central nasal macular area.
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