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Review
. 2017 Nov;92(11):1723-1736.
doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2017.09.007. Epub 2017 Nov 1.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: Diagnosis, Clinical Implications, and Future Directions

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Free PMC article
Review

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: Diagnosis, Clinical Implications, and Future Directions

Erik K St Louis et al. Mayo Clin Proc. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is diagnosed by a clinical history of dream enactment accompanied by polysomnographic rapid eye movement sleep atonia loss (rapid eye movement sleep without atonia). Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder is strongly associated with neurodegenerative disease, especially synucleinopathies such as Parkinson disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple system atrophy. A history of RBD may begin several years to decades before onset of any clear daytime symptoms of motor, cognitive, or autonomic impairments, suggesting that RBD is the presenting manifestation of a neurodegenerative process. Evidence that RBD is a synlucleinopathy includes the frequent presence of subtle prodromal neurodegenerative abnormalities including hyposmia, constipation, and orthostatic hypotension, as well as abnormalities on various neuroimaging, neurophysiological, and autonomic tests. Up to 90.9% of patients with idiopathic RBD ultimately develop a defined neurodegenerative disease over longitudinal follow-up, although the prognosis for younger patients and antidepressant-associated RBD is less clear. Patients with RBD should be treated with either melatonin 3 to 12 mg or clonazepam 0.5 to 2.0 mg to reduce injury potential. Prospective outcome and treatment studies of RBD are necessary to enable accurate prognosis and better evidence for symptomatic therapy and future neuroprotective strategies.

Conflict of interest statement

Potential Competing Interests: Dr St. Louis receives research support from Mayo Clinic CCaTS, NIH/NHLBI, and Sunovion and book royalties from Wiley-Blackwell for Epilepsy and the Interictal State: Co-morbidities and Quality of Life. Dr Boeve reports that he is an investigator in clinical trials sponsored by Cephalon, Allon Pharmaceuticals, and GE Healthcare. He receives royalties from the publication of a book titled The Behavioral Neurology of Dementia (Cambridge Medicine) (2009). He has received honoraria from the American Academy of Neurology. He receives research support from the National Institute on Aging (grant nos. P50 AG16574 [coinvestigator], U01 AG06786 [coinvestigator], RO1 AG32306 [coinvestigator]) and the Mangurian Foundation.

Figures

FIGURE 1
FIGURE 1
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep atonia loss, also known as REM sleep without atonia, in a 52-year-old man with REM sleep behavior disorder. Note that the predominant abnormality in the top epoch is excessive phasic/transient muscle activity confined to the anterior tibialis muscle (seventh channel, red arrows) and the middle epoch shows additional activations of abnormal phasic bursting in the submentalis muscle (blue arrows, sixth channel). By contrast, the bottom polysomnogram epoch shows normal REM atonia levels in the chin, leg, and arm muscles (in channels 6-8).
FIGURE 2
FIGURE 2
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder results from a lesion in the neuronal network regulating REM atonia in the dorsal medial pons. A 47-year-old man evolved mononeuritis multiplex with biopsy-proven vasculitis, followed by multiple cranial neuropathies involving the III, IV, VI, VII, IX, and X cranial nerves, and within weeks, he also began exhibiting complex motor behavior during sleep paralleling dream mentation of defense against attack during which he would punch, kick, flail his arms, or stand up in bed. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain exhibited a hyperintense FLAIR signal abnormality in the dorsal pontomedullary region, neighboring the sublateral dorsal nucleus, which is the “REM-on” center governing REM sleep atonia. A lesion in this area leads to REM sleep atonia loss (REM sleep without atonia), a permissive state for dream enactment and REM sleep behavior disorder. Coronal fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) intensity MRI sections at the level of the medulla and pons show a discrete longitudinally extensive hyperintense lesion at the level of the dorsomedial pons extending rostrally to the right superior pons ventral to the superior cerebellar peduncle. The brainstem nuclei thought to be involved in REM sleep atonia regulation are shown on human brainstem templates. Letters for each template and corresponding MRI FLAIR sections selected from our case represent cross-sectional views through the brainstem as shown in the midsagittal figure, with sections representing (A) the pontomesencephalic junction, (B) the upper/mid pons, (C) the lower/mid pons, and (D) the pontomedullary junction. The approximate location of the lesion is shown in the superimposed pink oval. LC = locus ceruleus; LDT = laterodorsal tegmental nucleus; LPT = lateral pontine tegmentum; PPN = pedunculopontine nucleus; RN = raphe nucleus; SLD = sublateral dorsal nucleus; vlPAG = ventrolateral part of the periaqueductal gray matter. Reproduced from Neurology, with permission from Wolters Kluwer.
FIGURE 3
FIGURE 3
Theoretical model of rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) and its relationship with different clinical manifestations of synucleinopathies. Idiopathic RBD may remain as an isolated syndrome with or without additional cognitive, autonomic, or motor “soft signs” that may or may not evolve toward more definitive, clinically overt, “full-blown” synucleinopathy subtypes of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), multiple system atrophy (MSA), Parkinson disease (PD), or PD with dementia (PDD). Patients with parkinsonism and dementia are considered to have PDD if cognitive decline occurs longer than 1 year after the emergence of parkinsonism and DLB if patients present with cognitive decline less than 1 year after the emergence of parkinsonism. Patients with PD and patients without RBD may represent different clinical phenotypes, given different and more severe motor signs, cognitive impairments, and autonomic signs in those with PD compared with those without PD. MCI = mild cognitive impairment; PAF = pure automatic failure. Reproduced from Sleep Med, with permission from Elsevier, Inc.
FIGURE 4
FIGURE 4
Schematic framework for viewing natural history studies (A) and showing efficacy of disease-modifying therapies (B) in patients with RBD and/or other neurological symptoms and findings. See text for details. DLB = dementia with Lewy bodies; iRBD = idiopathic RBD (RBD without other neurological symptoms or signs); MAD = mild autonomic dysfunction (phase preceding overt MSA); MCI = mild cognitive impairment (phase preceding overt DLB); MPS = mild parkinsonian signs (phase preceding overt PD); MSA = multiple system atrophy; PD = Parkinson disease; RBD = rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder

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