Sleep disorder linked to brain disease

Researchers at the University of Toronto say 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.

"Rapid-eye-movement behaviour disorder (RBD) is not just a precursor but also a critical warning sign of that can lead to brain disease," says associate professor and lead author Dr. John Peever. In fact, as many as 80 to 90 per cent of people with RBD will develop a brain disease."

As the name suggests, the disturbance 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," says Peever. "This is important because drugs that reduce neurodegeneration could be used in RBD patients to prevent (or protect) them from developing more severe degenerative disorders."

His research examines the idea that neurodegeneration might first affect areas of the brain that control sleep before attacking areas that cause more common like Alzheimer's.

Peever says he hopes the results of his study lead to earlier and more effective treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Professor John Peever is an associate professor in U of T's Department of Cell and Systems Biology. His research is available in print and online in the latest issue of Trends in Neuroscience.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study identifies how muscles are paralyzed during sleep

Jul 11, 2012

Two powerful brain chemical systems work together to paralyze skeletal muscles during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, according to new research in the July 11 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The finding may help scient ...

Recommended for you

Team finds an off switch for pain

4 hours ago

In research published in the medical journal Brain, Saint Louis University researcher Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D. and colleagues within SLU, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other academic institutions have d ...

Brain researchers pinpoint gateway to human memory

6 hours ago

An international team led by researchers of the University of Magdeburg and the DZNE has successfully determined the location, where memories are generated with a level of precision never achieved before. ...

How various brain areas interact in decisions

8 hours ago

Our decisions can be pictured in the brain. Scientists at the University of Zurich were able to show in a recent study which areas are most active in decision making. Often the so-called prefrontal cortex ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.