Parkinson’s disease is a condition that causes parts of a person’s brain to progressively deteriorate over many years, causing the most recognizable symptom: involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body.
It is still not fully known what causes Parkinson’s, but researchers have identified several risk factors, including a person's age and sex, as well as some genetic factors.
However, a team of researchers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada has potentially uncovered a new predictor of risk: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD).
Most people, during the REM phase of sleep, enter a state of paralysis and cannot move, preventing them from physically acting out a dream they might be having. People with RBD, though, are able to act out dreams without knowing – which can lead to them injuring themselves or other people they share a bed with.
Detailing their findings recently in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, the researchers say that 73.5% of the 1,280 people with REM sleep behavior disorder went on to develop Parkinson’s disease. As lead author Dr. Ron Postuma and colleagues explain, REM sleep behavior disorder could be a strong predictor of Parkinson’s, which may allow people with the sleeping disorder to be offered experimental Parkinson’s therapies in the future to prevent the disease developing.
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