REM sleep atonia loss distinguishes synucleinopathy in older adults with cognitive impairment

Stuart J. McCarter, Grace M. Tabatabai, Ho Yann Jong, David J. Sandness, Paul C. Timm, Katie L. Johnson, Allison R. McCarter, Rodolfo Savica, Prashanthi Vemuri, Mary M. Machulda, Kejal Kantarci, Michelle M. Mielke, Bradley F. Boeve, Michael H. Silber, Erik K. St Louis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


ObjectiveTo determine whether quantitative polysomnographic REM sleep without atonia (RSWA) distinguishes between cognitive impairment phenotypes.BackgroundNeurodegenerative cognitive impairment in older adults predominantly correlates with tauopathy or synucleinopathy. Accurate antemortem phenotypic diagnosis has important prognostic and treatment implications; additional clinical tools might distinguish between dementia syndromes.MethodsWe quantitatively analyzed RSWA in 61 older adults who underwent polysomnography including 46 with cognitive impairment (20 probable synucleinopathy), 26 probable non-synucleinopathy (15 probable Alzheimer disease, 11 frontotemporal lobar dementia), and 15 age-and sex-matched controls. Submentalis and anterior tibialis RSWA metrics and automated REM atonia index were calculated. Group statistical comparisons and regression were performed, and receiver operating characteristic curves determined diagnostic RSWA thresholds that best distinguished synucleinopathy phenotype.ResultsSubmentalis-but not anterior tibialis RSWA-was greater in synucleinopathy than nonsynucleinopathy; several RSWA diagnostic thresholds distinguished synucleinopathy with excellent specificity including submentalis tonic, 5.6% (area under the curve [AUC] 0.791); submentalis any, 15.0% (AUC 0.871); submentalis phasic, 10.8% (AUC 0.863); and anterior tibialis phasic, 31.4% (AUC 0.694). In the subset of patients without dream enactment behaviors, submentalis RSWA was also greater in patients with synucleinopathy than in those without synucleinopathy. RSWA was detected more frequently by quantitative than qualitative methods (p = 0.0001).ConclusionElevated submentalis RSWA distinguishes probable synucleinopathy from probable nonsynucleinopathy in cognitively impaired older adults, even in the absence of clinical dream enactment symptoms.Classification of evidenceThis study provides Class III evidence that quantitative RSWA analysis is useful for distinguishing cognitive impairment phenotypes. Further studies with pathologic confirmation of dementia diagnoses are needed to confirm the diagnostic utility of RSWA in dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e15-e29
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 7 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'REM sleep atonia loss distinguishes synucleinopathy in older adults with cognitive impairment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this