Sleep Med. 2023 Sep 1;110:254-257. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2023.08.006. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: Traumatic brain injury is associated with the late development of neurodegenerative diseases such as the synucleinopathies. Isolated REM sleep behavior disorder (IRBD) constitutes an early manifestation of the synucleinopathies. We assessed whether lifetime history of concussive episodes is common in IRBD and examined its characteristics and clinical significance.
METHODS: Prior exposure to concussions was evaluated by interviewing polysomnographically-confirmed IRBD patients and controls without IRBD, and by the BRAIN-Q questionnaire.
RESULTS: We recruited 199 IRBD patients aged 73.2 ± 7.7 years and 168 age and sex matched controls. Previous history of concussion was more common in patients than in controls (21.1% versus 10.1%, p = 0.004). In patients, concussions occurred at the age of 24.7 ± 20.6 years. The interval between concussion and IRBD diagnosis was 43.0 ± 19.0 years. There were no differences between patients and controls in the causes of concussions (e.g., traffic accidents, sport practice), and number of events resulting in skull fractures, urgent medical assistance, and hospitalization. After a follow-up of 5.7 ± 4.7 years from IRBD diagnosis, 21.1% patients developed an overt synucleinopathy with an interval of 49.3 ± 24.2 years between concussion and synucleinopathy diagnosis. The risk to develop a synucleinopathy was similar between patients with and without concussions (p = 0.57).
CONCLUSIONS: Previous history of concussion is common in IRBD. Our observations may suggest that in individuals with increased susceptibility, early-life concussions may trigger a slow neurodegenerative process leading four decades later to IRBD. This study highlights the need for head injury prevention, particularly in early life.