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J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;63(1):1-11. doi: 10.3233/JAD-171164.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder and Alzheimer's Disease: Definitely No Relationship?

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Department of Clinical Neurosciences, IRCCS San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Neurology - Sleep Disorders Center, Milan, Italy.
"Vita-Salute" San Raffaele University, Faculty of Psychology, Milan, Italy.
Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, John Hunter Hospital, New Lambton, NSW, Australia.


Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is a REM sleep parasomnia characterized by the loss of the typical muscular atonia present during healthy REM sleep. RBD can occur in the absence of other neurological conditions or in association with a neurodegenerative disorder. It is now well established that RBD is a strong predictor of neurodegeneration, in particular synucleinopathies, such as Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia (LBD), or multiple system atrophy. However, some longitudinal studies report that a minority of patients develop either overlapping form of dementia or Alzheimer disease's (AD). Although AD is reported as a possible development in patients with RBD, it is in a limited number of cases and there are concerns about the accuracy of the diagnostic criteria. Neuropsychological impairments identified in cross-sectional studies of RBD patients describe a profile similar to that observed in dementia related to synucleinopathies. However, only deficits in executive function predict the development of neurodegeneration. Longitudinal studies reported the development of AD in RBD patients in about 7% of cases with variability ranging from 3% and 11%. Since the majority of longitudinal investigations do not report AD as a possible development for RBD patients the proportion may be overestimated. The study of the relationship between RBD and AD may be confounded by two factors that lead to misdiagnosis: the use of clinical criteria alone and the overlap between the clinical features and neuropathology of AD and LBD. Future studies to investigate this association must use updated diagnostic criteria incorporating ancillary investigations.


Alzheimer’s disease; REM sleep behavior disorder; cognition; neurodegeneration


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