Impaired cerebral microcirculation in isolated REM sleep behaviour disorder

Simon F Eskildsen*, Alex Iranzo, Morten G Stokholm, Kristian Stær, Karen Østergaard, Mónica Serradell, Marit Otto, Kristina B Svendsen, Alicia Garrido, Dolores Vilas, Per Borghammer, Joan Santamaria, Arne Møller, Carles Gaig, David J Brooks, Eduardo Tolosa, Leif Østergaard, Nicola Pavese

*Corresponding author for this work

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


During the prodromal period of Parkinson's disease and other α-synucleinopathy-related parkinsonisms, neurodegeneration is thought to progressively affect deep brain nuclei, such as the locus coeruleus, caudal raphe nucleus, substantia nigra, and the forebrain nucleus basalis of Meynert. Besides their involvement in the regulation of mood, sleep, behaviour, and memory functions, these nuclei also innervate parenchymal arterioles and capillaries throughout the cortex, possibly to ensure that oxygen supplies are adjusted according to the needs of neural activity. The aim of this study was to examine whether patients with isolated REM sleep behaviour disorder, a parasomnia considered to be a prodromal phenotype of α-synucleinopathies, reveal microvascular flow disturbances consistent with disrupted central blood flow control. We applied dynamic susceptibility contrast MRI to characterize the microscopic distribution of cerebral blood flow in the cortex of 20 polysomnographic-confirmed patients with isolated REM sleep behaviour disorder (17 males, age range: 54-77 years) and 25 healthy matched controls (25 males, age range: 58-76 years). Patients and controls were cognitively tested by Montreal Cognitive Assessment and Mini Mental State Examination. Results revealed profound hypoperfusion and microvascular flow disturbances throughout the cortex in patients compared to controls. In patients, the microvascular flow disturbances were seen in cortical areas associated with language comprehension, visual processing and recognition and were associated with impaired cognitive performance. We conclude that cortical blood flow abnormalities, possibly related to impaired neurogenic control, are present in patients with isolated REM sleep behaviour disorder and associated with cognitive dysfunction. We hypothesize that pharmacological restoration of perivascular neurotransmitter levels could help maintain cognitive function in patients with this prodromal phenotype of parkinsonism.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain : a journal of neurology
Pages (from-to)1498-1508
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • MRI
  • Parkinson's disease
  • REM sleep behaviour disorder
  • microcirculation
  • perfusion


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