Potential cause of severe sleep disorder discovered, implications for Parkinson's disease

Researchers at the University of Toronto are the first to indentify a potential cause for a severe sleep disorder that has been closely linked to Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

"Our research is the first to establish a potential genetic link to human behaviour disorder (RBD). That's important because between 60 and 80 per cent of people diagnosed with human RBD develop Parkinson's disease or other neurodegenerative disorders later in life," says Dr. John Peever, lead author of the study that recently appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience.

sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) is most often characterized by violent movements that occur during dreaming sleep, also called rapid-eye-movement sleep. People who suffer from RBD do not experience normal that prevents them from enacting their dreams and they often hurt themselves or their bed partners with their rapid, forceful movements. In some cases, patients need to be tied to their bed to prevent serious injury to themselves or their bedpartners.

Peever's team focused on investigating a of RBD because the underlying cause of this disorder is unknown. There is evidence indicating that reduced brain inhibition could cause RBD, so Peever's team genetically reduced brain inhibition in mice and then recorded their sleep and muscle activity.

"We found that mice with reduced brain inhibition acted just like human RBD patients and they moved violently during REM sleep," says Peever. "This link strongly suggests that patients with RBD may also have impaired brain inhibition."

They also found that RBD symptoms in mice could be alleviated by giving them clonazepam – a drug used to treat human RBD.

Peever's research underscores the importance of identifying a cause of RBD as 60 – 80 per cent of RBD sufferers subsequently develop Parkinson's.

"Treating RBD could have direct implications for understanding and perhaps treating Parkinson's disease," says Peever.

Related Stories

Drugs may cause violence in sleep

Jun 21, 2006

A new study links antidepressant drugs to people who act out violent dreams but U.S. experts say more tests are needed before the drugs should be stopped.

Violent sleep disorder linked to a form of dementia

May 17, 2007

Mayo Clinic researchers and a group of international collaborators have discovered a correlation between an extreme form of sleep disorder and eventual onset of parkinsonism or dementia. The findings appear in the current ...

Recommended for you

Emotional adjustment following traumatic brain injury

5 hours ago

Life after a traumatic brain injury resulting from a car accident, a bad fall or a neurodegenerative disease changes a person forever. But the injury doesn't solely affect the survivor – the lives of their spouse or partner ...

New ALS associated gene identified using innovative strategy

Oct 22, 2014

Using an innovative exome sequencing strategy, a team of international scientists led by John Landers, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has shown that TUBA4A, the gene encoding the Tubulin Alpha 4A protein, ...

User comments