A new study suggests a sleep disorder that causes people to act out their dreams is the best current predictor of brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Researchers at the University of Toronto say that rapid-eye-movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is not just a precursor but also a critical warning sign of neurodegeneration that can lead to brain disease.
“In fact, as many as 80 to 90 percent of people with RBD will develop a brain disease,” said associate professor and lead author John Peever, Ph.D.
As labeled, the disorder occurs during the rapid-eye-movement (REM) stage of sleep and causes people to act out their dreams, often resulting in injury to themselves and/or bed partner.
In healthy brains, muscles are temporarily paralyzed during sleep to prevent this from happening.
“It’s important for clinicians to recognize RBD as a potential indication of brain disease in order to diagnose patients at an earlier stage,” said Peever.
“This is important because of drugs that reduce severe degenerative disorders.”
His research examines the idea that neurodegeneration might first affect areas of the brain that control sleep before attacking brain areas that cause more common brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Peever said he hopes the results of his study lead to earlier and more effective treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
The research findings have been published in the journal Trends in Neuroscience.
Source: University of Toronto