REM sleep behavior disorder and degenerative dementia: An association likely reflecting Lewy body disease

Bradley F. Boeve, M. H. Silber, T. J. Ferman, E. Kokmen, G. E. Smith, R. J. Ivnik, J. E. Parisi, E. J. Olson, R. C. Petersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

344 Scopus citations


Background: REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) has been reported with various neurodegenerative disorders, most frequently in disorders with Lewy body pathology. RBD often precedes the onset of PD, and a recent prospective study showed that 38% of patients with RBD eventually developed PD. Methods: We identified 37 patients with degenerative dementia and a history of bursts of vigorous movement of the arms and legs with vocalization during sleep and associated with dream recall. Patients with and without two or more signs of parkinsonism were compared. Clinical, laboratory, and neuropsychometric features were analyzed, and criteria for the clinical diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) were applied to all patients. Results: Thirty-four of the 37 patients were male with mean age at onset of 61.5 years for RBD and 68.1 years for cognitive decline. RBD commenced before or concurrently with dementia in all patients but two. Parkinsonism (two or more signs) occurred in 54% of the sample (20/37), with a mean age at onset of 69.1 years. Polysomnography (PSG) confirmed RBD in all patients studied. Neuropsychological testing demonstrated impaired perceptual-organizational skills, verbal fluency, and marked constructional dyspraxia in more than one- half the patients. There were no statistically significant differences in the frequency of clinical features or in neuropsychological performance between patients with and without parkinsonism. Thirty-four patients (92%) met criteria for clinically possible or probable DLB. Three patients were autopsied; all had limbic with or without neocortical Lewy bodies. Conclusions: We report a group of predominantly male patients with a characteristic association of RBD and degenerative dementia. The clinical and neuropsychometric features of the groups of patients with and without parkinsonism are similar. We hypothesize that the underlying pathology in these patients is DLB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-370
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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