Abnormal Circadian Modification of A δ-Fiber Pathway Excitability in Idiopathic Restless Legs Syndrome

Pain Res Manag. 2019 Nov 3:2019:5408732. doi: 10.1155/2019/5408732. eCollection 2019.


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by unpleasant sensations generally localized to legs, associated with an urge to move. A likely pathogenetic mechanism is a central dopaminergic dysfunction. The exact role of pain system is unclear. The purpose of the study was to investigate the nociceptive pathways in idiopathic RLS patients. We enrolled 11 patients (mean age 53.2 ± 19.7 years; 7 men) suffering from severe, primary RLS. We recorded scalp laser-evoked potentials (LEPs) to stimulation of different sites (hands and feet) and during two different time conditions (daytime and nighttime). Finally, we compared the results with a matched control group of healthy subjects. The Aδ responses obtained from patients did not differ from those recorded from control subjects. However, the N1 and the N2-P2 amplitudes' night/day ratios after foot stimulation were increased in patients, as compared to controls (N1: patients: 133.91 ± 50.42%; controls: 83.74 ± 34.45%; p = 0.016; Aδ-N2-P2: patients: 119.15 ± 15.56%; controls: 88.42 ± 23.41%; p = 0.003). These results suggest that RLS patients present circadian modifications in the pain system, which are not present in healthy controls. Both sensory-discriminative and affective-emotional components of pain experience show parallel changes. This study confirms the structural integrity of Aδ nociceptive system in idiopathic RLS, but it also suggests that RLS patients present circadian modifications in the pain system. These findings could potentially help clinicians and contribute to identify new therapeutic approaches.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronobiology Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laser-Evoked Potentials
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / physiopathology*