Brain imaging findings in idiopathic REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) - A systematic review on potential biomarkers for neurodegeneration

Sleep Med Rev. 2017 Aug;34:23-33. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2016.06.006. Epub 2016 Jun 25.


Idiopathic rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is a parasomnia characterized by the loss of physiological atonia of skeletal muscles with abnormal behavior during dream sleep. RBD may be the initial manifestation of neurodegenerative diseases, particularly of α-synucleinopathies such as Parkinson's disease (PD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and multiple system atrophy (MSA). However, gauging the individual risk of subsequent phenoconversion and making assumptions on the type of disease that may subsequently follow RBD is challenging. Over the past years, a growing number of studies have sought to establish reliable neuroimaging markers to detect neurodegenerative brain changes in RBD subjects at the earliest possible stage. The present review summarizes recent advances in brain imaging in RBD and provides recommendations for the application of currently available structural and functional neuroimaging modalities to monitor disease progression and risk of subsequent phenoconversion. Further imaging research applying multimodal approaches is encouraged to enhance accuracy of prognoses. Additionally, more longitudinal studies are warranted to validate findings from cross-sectional studies on RBD progression and risk of subsequent phenoconversion. Aside from enabling reliable prognoses on a single-subject-level in the near future, this might give further insight into RBD pathophysiology, and finally augment the development of intervention strategies and disease-modifying therapies.

Keywords: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS); Neuroimaging; Positron emission tomography (PET); REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD); Single photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT); Transcranial sonography (TCS).

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology*
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Parkinson Disease
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder* / diagnostic imaging
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder* / physiopathology


  • Biomarkers