Causes & Diagnosis of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

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Studies of animals may explain REM sleep behavior disorder. Animals who have suffered lesions in the brain stem have exhibited symptoms similar to RBD. Cats with lesions affecting the part of the brain stem that involves the inhibition of locomotor activity will have motor activity during REM sleep: they will arch their backs, hiss and bare their teeth for no reason, while their brain waves register normal REM sleep.

REM behavior disorder underscores the importance of basic science research in animals," says Mahowald, "because without the information obtained in basic science animal research, the disorder could never have been identified. Sleep is such a young field that we have the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that there is a close collaboration between basic science and clinicians."

Diagnosis of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Because a number of parasomnias may be confused with RBD, it is necessary to conduct formal sleep studies performed at sleep centers that are experienced in evaluating parasomnias in order to establish a diagnosis. In RBD, a single night of extensive monitoring of sleep, brain, and muscle activity will almost always reveal the lack of muscle paralysis during REM sleep, and it will also eliminate other causes of parasomnias.

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