Patients with idiopathic rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder (iRBD) have a high risk of converting into manifest α-synucleinopathies. Eye movements (EMs) are controlled by neurons in the lower brainstem, midbrain and frontal areas, and may be affected by the early neurodegenerative process seen in iRBD. Studies have reported impairment of the oculomotor function in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) during wakefulness, but no studies have investigated EMs during sleep. We aimed to evaluate nocturnal EMs in iRBD and PD, hypothesizing that these patients present abnormal EM distribution during sleep. Twenty-eight patients with periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), 24 iRBD, 23 PD without RBD (PDwoRBD), 29 PD and RBD (PDwRBD) and 24 controls were included. A validated EM detector automatically identified EM periods between lights off and on. The EM coverage was computed as the percentage of time containing EMs during stable wake after lights off, N1, N2, N3 and REM sleep. Between-group comparisons revealed that PDwRBD had significantly less EM coverage during wake and significantly higher EM coverage during N2 compared to controls and PLMD patients. PDwoRBD showed significantly less EM coverage during wake compared to controls and higher EM coverage during N2 compared to controls and PLMD. Finally, iRBD showed less coverage of EM during wake compared to controls. The same trend was observed between iRBD and controls in N2 but was not significant. The different profiles of EM coverage in iRBD and PD with/without RBD may mirror different stages of central nervous system involvement across neurodegenerative disease progression.
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