Presenting their research at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging's 2014 Annual Meeting, researchers are not sure why spontaneous and unexplained disturbance in REM sleep should lead to a neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson's, but new longitudinal imaging data show a clear correlation between idiopathic REM behavior disorder and dysfunction of the dopamine transporter system involved in a wide range of vital brain functions, including memory and motor control.
Dysfunction associated with dopamine in the brain marks the first hints of Parkinson's disease.
"Our SPECT study showed a trend toward decreased dopamine transporter density in the brain and Parkinsonism in the follow-up data of patients with REM sleep disorder who had no previous evidence of neurodegenerative disease," Hongyoon Choi, MD, a PhD candidate and researcher in the department of molecular medicine and biopharmaceutical sciences at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Sungnam, Korea said.
"To our knowledge, a study looking at a long-term link between the two has never been conducted before," Choi said.
A total of 21 consecutive patients with no known Parkinsonism or cognitive decline were enrolled in the long-term study between 2004 and 2006 and were followed after about 8 years. A baseline SPECT scan of dopamine transporter function was performed with the radiopharmaceutical I-123 FP-CIT as an imaging agent. A follow-up scan was performed to assess progression of neurodegenerative disease.
Results showed that after follow-up, patients' SPECT scans revealed substantial decreases in radiotracer binding to the dopamine transport system in the nigrostriatal regions of the brain.
A lack of tracer binding in these regions of the brain is closely linked to neuronal degeneration and the development of dementia and movement disorders.
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