REM Sleep Behavior Disorder and Prodromal Neurodegeneration - Where are We Headed?

  • Ronald B Postuma
  • Jean-Francois Gagnon
  • Jacques Montplaisir

Abstract

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is characterized by loss of normal atonia during REM sleep, such that patients appear to act out their dreams. The most important implication of research into this area is that patients with idiopathic RBD are at very high risk of developing synucleinmediated neurodegenerative disease (Parkinson's disease [PD], dementia with Lewy bodies [DLB], and multiple system atrophy), with risk estimates that approximate 40–65% at 10 years. Thus, RBD disorder is a very strong feature of prodromal synucleinopathy. This provides several opportunities for future research. First, patients with REM sleep behavior disorder can be studied to test other predictors of disease, which could potentially be applied to the general population. These studies have demonstrated that olfactory loss, decreased color vision, slowing on quantitative motor testing, and abnormal substantia nigra neuroimaging findings can predict clinical synucleinopathy. Second, prospectively studying patients with RBD allows a completely unprecedented opportunity to directly evaluate patients as they transition into clinical neurodegenerative disease. Studies assessing progression of markers of neurodegeneration in prodromal PD are beginning to appear. Third, RBD are very promising subjects for neuroprotective therapy trials because they have a high risk of disease conversion with a sufficiently long latency, which provides an opportunity for early intervention. As RBD research expands, collaboration between centers will become increasingly essential.