Neuroimaging, REM Sleep Disturbances, and Parkinson's

September 20, 2010

A recent study found that neuroimaging use in patients with REM sleep disturbances can help detect early Parkinsons's disease.

What do these three things have in common? For starters, results of a 2006 study by the Multidisciplinary Sleep Disturbances Unit of the Hospital Clínic showed that disturbances during REM sleep constitutes an early marker of neurodegenerative diseases. Adding to this knowledge, research findings from the same clinic show that neuroimaging techniques can be used to identify those patients with REM sleep disturbances who will, in the short term, develop neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Parkinson’s disease.

In the previous study, the researchers—led by Dr. Àlex Iranzo, Neurology Department, of Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, and member, Multidisciplinary Sleep Disturbances Unit—found that 45% of patients diagnosed with a sleep disturbance had developed a neurodegenerative disorder at 5 years follow-up. Each of these patients was age 60 years or older and experienced nightmares in which they cried, called out, or showed body movements.

In the current study, of 43 patients with idiopathic rapid-eye-movement sleep behavior disorder, the team found that 123I-2β-carbomethoxy-3β-(4-iodophenyl)-N-(3-fluoropropyl)-nortropane (123I-FP-CIT) SPECT and transcranial sonography can “detect subclinical changes much the same as those typically seen in patients with early Parkinson's disease. Decreased striatal 123I-FP-CIT binding and substantia nigra hyperechogenicity might be useful markers to identify individuals at increased risk for development of synucleinopathies.”