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Mov Disord. 2017 May;32(5):636-644. doi: 10.1002/mds.27003. Epub 2017 Apr 10.

Degeneration of rapid eye movement sleep circuitry underlies rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder.

Author information

1
Centre for Biological Timing and Cognition, Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

Abstract

During healthy rapid eye movement sleep, skeletal muscles are actively forced into a state of motor paralysis. However, in rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder-a relatively common neurological disorder-this natural process is lost. A lack of motor paralysis (atonia) in rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder allows individuals to actively move, which at times can be excessive and violent. At first glance this may sound harmless, but it is not because rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder patients frequently injure themselves or the person they sleep with. It is hypothesized that the degeneration or dysfunction of the brain stem circuits that control rapid eye movement sleep paralysis is an underlying cause of rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. The link between brain stem degeneration and rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder stems from the fact that rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder precedes, in the majority (∼80%) of cases, the development of synucleinopathies such as Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple system atrophy, which are known to initially cause degeneration in the caudal brain stem structures where rapid eye movement sleep circuits are located. Furthermore, basic science and clinical evidence demonstrate that lesions within the rapid eye movement sleep circuits can induce rapid eye movement sleep-specific motor deficits that are virtually identical to those observed in rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. This review examines the evidence that rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder is caused by synucleinopathic neurodegeneration of the core brain stem circuits that control healthy rapid eye movement sleep and concludes that rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder is not a separate clinical entity from synucleinopathies but, rather, it is the earliest symptom of these disorders.

KEYWORDS:

REM sleep; REM sleep behavior disorder; degeneration; synucleinopathy

PMID:
28394031
DOI:
10.1002/mds.27003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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