Patients who suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder have altered blood flow in the brain, which can lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain tissue. In the long term, this may cause symptoms of Parkinson disease. This is shown by research from Aarhus University and Aarhus
Do you sleep restlessly and flail your arms and kick out in your sleep? This could be a sign of a disorder associated with diseases of the brain. Researchers from AU and AUH have examined whether rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder may be an early sign of Parkinson disease.
"We can see complications in the small blood vessels of the brain in
patients with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, although these patients don't otherwise have any
symptoms and the brain doesn't show other signs of disease," says Simon
Fristed Eskildsen, who is behind the study.
He explains: "We believe that the same disease processes that cause disrupted
sleep also affect the ability to control the blood flow in the brain,
which can lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain tissue. Over time this
will gradually break down the brain tissue and cause symptoms that we
see in Parkinson's disease."
Monitored while asleep
The changes in the brain are associated with reduced
neurotransmitters, meaning that nerves in the brain have trouble
controlling the blood vessels.
"A medical treatment would be able to restore the neurotransmitter
and control of the blood vessels, thereby helping to maintain the
cognitive function of patients who show early signs of Parkinson's
disease," explains the researcher.
Twenty rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder patients aged 54 to 77 years and 25 healthy control subjects
aged 58 to 76 participated in the study. The participants in the study
were monitored in a sleep laboratory, where they had their EEG
(electrical activity in the brain), EOG (eye movements), EMG (muscle
activity) and ECG (electrical activity in the heart) measured during
"The patients and the control subjects were tested cognitively and
MRI scanned, and the results revealed low blood flow and flow
disturbances in the small blood vessels in the brain in the patients
compared with the control group. In the patients, these flow
disturbances seen in the cerebral cortex were associated with language
comprehension, visual construction and recognition - this was also
associated with reduced cognitive performance," says last author of the
study, Nicola Pavese.
The researchers will now investigate whether the reduced blood flow
in the brain deteriorates over time and how it is linked to the symptoms
of Parkinson disease. The hope is that it will be possible to use the
method to predict the disease in patients with sleep disorders in order
to then prevent the symptoms at an early stage.
The results have just been published in the scientific journal Brain.
There are 7300 patients with Parkinson disease in
Denmark. Symptoms are slow movements, often with shaking, together with
muscular rigidity. Parkinson disease is a chronic condition that
continues to worsen over time. About half of the patients experience
cognitive decline early in the disease. The disease is somewhat more
common in men than in women. Parkinson disease occurs because the
brain lacks dopamine. It primarily affects adults and the first signs
most often appear between the ages of 50 to 70.
Source: News Release
May 25, 2021