REM sleep behaviour disorder is an early marker of neurodegenerative diseases
45% of all assessed patients suffering REM sleep behaviour disorder developed Parkinson, Lewy body dementia or mild cognitive impairment. The study was conducted in the framework of the Sleep Unit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona
As well as clinical and teaching areas, this unit has high research activity as shown by the study explained below. This work has been led by Dr. Àlex Iranzo, member of the Unit of Neurology of Hospital Clínic and of the Functional Studies of the Nervous System Group of the Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS). Not only The Lancet Neurology published the work, but also it dedicates the front page to the article, and a reflection by Canadian neurologists Dr. Ronald Postuma (Department of Neurology of the Montreal General Hospital de Québec) and Dr. Jacques Montplaisir (Centre D'Etude du Sommeil in the Hospital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal).
This article is based in a descriptive study conducted since 1991 in which 44 patients from the Unit of Sleep Disorder of the Hospital Clínic were assessed. Given the low incidence of this disorder, the sample of patients studied by this Catalan group is the highest until today. All these patients presented idiopathic REM sleep behaviour disorder. These patients, usually over 60 years, suffer from unpleasant dreams and express uneasiness by screaming, crying, kicking, punching and even falling from their beds.
According to the results of this study, 20 of these patients (45%), after being correctly diagnosed in the centre and followed up during five years, developed a neurodegenerative disease. This incidence is much higher than what is expected in the general population of the same age and gender. Therefore, scientists drew the conclusion that this disorder permits the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, multiple system atrophy or mild cognitive impairment. Furthermore, the fact that the twenty patients who developed a neurodegenerative disease were those who had suffered from REM sleep behaviour disorder for the longest time, suggests that this incidence could be superior in the future.
The importance of these results lie firstly in the future possibility of administrating neuroprotective drugs to patients with the REM sleep behaviour disorder who have still not developed a degenerative disease. Furthermore, the monitoring of these patients will permit an early administration of palliative drugs, which are already available. Toward this end, the Ministry of Health has awarded this group with a FIS award named "Prognostic markers of the development of a neurodegenerative disease in patients affected with REM sleep behaviour disorder".
For further information please contact:
Hospital Clínic de Barcelona
Institut D'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer
Marc de Semir. Head of Communication and External Relations [email protected]
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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