REM sleep behaviour disorder is associated with lower fast and higher slow sleep spindle densities

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To investigate differences in sleep spindle properties and scalp topography between patients with rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) and healthy controls, whole-night polysomnograms of 35 patients diagnosed with RBD and 35 healthy control subjects matched for age and sex were compared. Recordings included a 19-lead 10–20 electroencephalogram montage and standard electromyogram, electrooculogram, electrocardiogram and respiratory leads. Sleep spindles were automatically detected using a standard algorithm, and their characteristics (amplitude, duration, density, frequency and frequency slope) compared between groups. Topological analyses of group-discriminative features were conducted. Sleep spindles occurred at a significantly (e.g. t34 = −4.49; P = 0.00008 for C3) lower density (spindles·min−1) for RBD (mean ± SD: 1.61 ± 0.56 for C3) than for control (2.19 ± 0.61 for C3) participants. However, when distinguishing slow and fast spindles using thresholds individually adapted to the electroencephalogram spectrum of each participant, densities smaller (31–96%) for fast but larger (20–120%) for slow spindles were observed in RBD in all derivations. Maximal differences were in more posterior regions for slow spindles, but over the entire scalp for fast spindles. Results suggest that the density of sleep spindles is altered in patients with RBD and should therefore be investigated as a potential marker of future neurodegeneration in these patients.

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