Cholinergic changes in Lewy body disease: implications for presentation, progression and subtypes

Niels Okkels, Michel J Grothe, John-Paul Taylor, Steen Gregers Hasselbalch, Tatyana D Fedorova, Karoline Knudsen, Sygrid van der Zee, Teus van Laar, Nicolaas Bohnen, Per Borghammer, Jacob Horsager

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Cholinergic degeneration is significant in Lewy body disease, including Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and isolated REM sleep behavior disorder. Extensive research has demonstrated cholinergic alterations in the central nervous system of these disorders. More recently, studies have revealed cholinergic denervation in organs that receive parasympathetic denervation. This enables a comprehensive review of cholinergic changes in Lewy body disease, encompassing both central and peripheral regions, various disease stages, and diagnostic categories. Across studies, brain regions affected in Lewy body dementia show equal or greater levels of cholinergic impairment compared to the brain regions affected in Lewy body disease without dementia. This observation suggests a continuum of cholinergic alterations between these disorders. Patients without dementia exhibit relative sparing of limbic regions, whereas occipital and superior temporal regions appear to be affected to a similar extent in patients with and without dementia. This implies that posterior cholinergic cell groups in the basal forebrain are affected in the early stages of Lewy body disorders, while more anterior regions are typically affected later in the disease progression. The topographical changes observed in patients affected by comorbid Alzheimer pathology may reflect a combination of changes seen in pure forms of Lewy body disease and those seen in Alzheimer's disease. This suggests that Alzheimer co-pathology is important to understand cholinergic degeneration in Lewy body disease. Thalamic cholinergic innervation is more affected in Lewy body patients with dementia compared to those without dementia, and this may contribute to the distinct clinical presentations observed in these groups. In patients with Alzheimer's disease, the thalamus is variably affected, suggesting a different sequential involvement of cholinergic cell groups in Alzheimer's disease compared to Lewy body disease. Patients with isolated REM sleep behavior disorder demonstrate cholinergic denervation in abdominal organs that receive parasympathetic innervation from the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, similar to patients who experienced this sleep disorder in their prodrome. This implies that REM sleep behavior disorder is important for understanding peripheral cholinergic changes in both prodromal and manifest phases of Lewy body disease. In conclusion, cholinergic changes in Lewy body disease carry implications for understanding phenotypes and the influence of Alzheimer co-pathology, delineating subtypes and pathological spreading routes, and for developing tailored treatments targeting the cholinergic system.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain : a journal of neurology
ISSN0006-8950
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Mar 2024

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