Sleep disorder may signal dementia, Parkinson's disease up to 50 years early

July 28, 2010

A new study shows that a sleep disorder may be a sign of dementia or Parkinson's disease up to 50 years before the disorders are diagnosed. The research is published in the July 28, 2010, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Using Mayo Clinic records, researchers identified 27 people who experienced (REM) sleep behavior disorder for at least 15 years before developing one of three conditions: Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or multiple system atrophy. Multiple system atrophy is a disorder that causes symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease. People with REM sleep behavior disorder often act out their dreams with violent movements, such as punching, which can injure themselves or bed partners.

The study found that the time between the start of the disorder and the symptoms of the ranged up to 50 years, with an average span of 25 years. Of the participants, 13 were diagnosed with dementia, 13 others were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and one person was diagnosed with multiple system atrophy.

"Our findings suggest that in some patients, conditions such as Parkinson's disease or dementia with Lewy bodies have a very long span of activity within the brain and they also may have a long period of time where other symptoms aren't apparent," said study author Bradley F. Boeve, MD, with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "More research is needed on this possible link so that scientists may be able to develop therapies that would slow down or stop the progression of these disorders years before the symptoms of or dementia appear."

It is not known how many people who experience REM disorder may develop diseases such as Parkinson's or . A corresponding editorial noted there is no evidence that narcolepsy, with or without REM disorder, will later lead to neurodegenerative disorders.

Explore further: Researchers Discover Link Between Parkinson’s and Narcolepsy

Related Stories

Researchers discover link between Parkinson's and narcolepsy

May 11, 2007

Parkinson's disease is well-known for its progression of motor disorders: stiffness, slowness, tremors, difficulties walking and talking. Less well known is that Parkinson's shares other symptoms with narcolepsy, a sleep ...

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 ...

Personality changes may help detect form of dementia

May 28, 2007

ST. PAUL, MN – A simple personality test could help doctors detect dementia with Lewy bodies, a form of dementia often confused with Alzheimer's disease, sooner, according to a study published in the May 29, 2007, issue ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


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.