• REM sleep behavior disorder;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • Lewy body dementia;
  • autonomic


More than 50% of persons with idiopathic REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) will develop Parkinson's disease or Lewy body dementia. Symptom screens and metaiodobenzylguanine (MIBG)-scintigraphy suggest autonomic abnormalities in idiopathic RBD, but it is unclear whether autonomic abnormalities can predict neurodegenerative disease. From a cohort of 99 patients with idiopathic RBD, we selected those who developed parkinsonism or dementia. These were matched by age, sex, and follow-up duration to patients with RBD who remained disease free and to matched controls. From the polysomnographic trace performed at baseline evaluation, measures of beat-to-beat RR variability including time domains (mean RR-interval and RR-standard deviation) and frequency domains (low and high frequency components) were retrospectively assessed. Twenty-one patients with idiopathic RBD who developed neurodegenerative disease were included (Parkinson's disease-11, multiple system atrophy-1, and dementia-9). Age at PSG was 66 years, and 86% were male. PSG was performed on average 6.7 years before defined neurodegenerative disease. Comparing all patients with idiopathic RBD to controls, there were significant reductions in RR-standard deviation (24.6 ± 2.2 ms vs. 35.2 ± 3.5 ms, P = 0.006), very low frequency components (238.6 ± 99.6 ms2 vs. 840.1 ± 188.3 ms2, P < 0.001), and low frequency components (127.8 ± 26.3 ms2 vs. 288.7 ± 66.2 ms2, P = 0.032). However, despite clear differences between patients with idiopathic RBD and controls, there were no differences in any measure between those who did or did not develop disease. RR-variability analysis demonstrates substantial autonomic dysfunction in idiopathic RBD. However, this dysfunction is identical in patients who will or will not develop defined neurodegenerative disease. This suggests that autonomic dysfunction is linked with RBD independent of associated Parkinson's disease or Lewy body dementia. © 2010 Movement Disorder Society