The retina is an easily accessible out-pouching of the central nervous system (CNS) and thus lends itself to being a biomarker of the brain. More specifically, the presence of neuronal, vascular and blood-neural barrier parallels in the eye and brain coupled with fast and inexpensive methods to quantify retinal changes make ocular biomarkers an attractive option. This includes its utility as a biomarker for a number of cerebrovascular diseases as well as a drug pharmacology and safety biomarker for the CNS. It is a rapidly emerging field, with some areas well established, such as stroke risk and multiple sclerosis, whereas others are still in development (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, psychological disease and cortical diabetic dysfunction). The current applications and future potential of retinal biomarkers, including potential ways to improve their sensitivity and specificity are discussed. This review summarises the existing literature and provides a perspective on the strength of current retinal biomarkers and their future potential.