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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Your nightmares might be a dementia warning sign


Thrashing and screaming in your sleep might be an early sign of a neurological disorder.
Scientists have discovered that patients who suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) are more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s or dementia later in life – suggesting that RBD could be an early indicator. This rare dream disorder causes strange, often violent dreams where sufferers scream, kick and thrash in their sleep, or even jumps out of bed in a rage.
John Peever, a neuroscientist at the University of Toronto, found that more than 80 percent of RBD patients eventually developed a neurological disease. Peever presented his team’s initial findings May 29 at the Canadian Neuroscience Meeting. They have not yet been published.
RBD is caused by a disrupted REM, or rapid eye movement, cycle. When we enter REM sleep our brain’s neurons fire like they do when we’re awake, but our body remains in a state of paralysis. This isn’t the case for people with RBD.
As part of his research, Peever discovered a group of cells in the brainstem that appear to be responsible for maintaining REM sleep. When he isolated the cells in mice, Peever could transition them between REM and non-REM sleep by turning the cells on and off.
But in RBD patients, Peever found that these cells were damaged.
“For some reason, the cells in the REM sleep area are the first to be sickened, and then the neurodegenerative disease spreads up into the brain and affects the other areas that case disorders like Parkinson’s disease,” Peever told Live Science. “REM Behavior Disorder is in fact the best-known predictor of the onset of Parkinson’s disease.”
Even though Peever’s study isn’t yet peer-reviewed, it’s not the first time researchers have noticed this link.
Two studies from 2013 found that more than 80 percent of RBD patients developed a disorder within a decade. And of 43 RBD patients observed in a 2010 study, 41 were eventually diagnosed with a neurological disease.
Further, a 2007 study of patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA) found that 90-100 percent of them suffered from RBD. MSA is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the part of the nervous system which controls your blood pressure, heart rate and bladder function.
Peever hopes that further research will help make way for protective medicines and therapies for RBD patients.
“Much like we see in people prone to cancer, diagnosing REM disorders may allow us to provide individuals with preventative actions to keep them healthy long before they develop these more serious neurological conditions,” he concluded at the conference.

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