Vivid Dreams Hint at Brain Disorders Early On

They can take place up to 50 years in advance

By on August 4th, 2010 07:53 GMT
In a new scientific study, experts propose that vivid dreams which take on a violent turn are actually a clear indicator of the chances a person has of developing brain disorders later on in life. In some cases, it was discovered that the dreams appear up to 50 years earlier, which lends additional credence to the idea that conditions affecting the brain actually take many years to develop, before a diagnostic can be made. The new data is bound to cause a stir (also, controversy) in the international scientific community, Science News reports.

The investigation is very important because it could help healthcare experts develop new methods of detecting early signs of neurological disorders. This could in turn prompt them to apply preemptive treatments that would reduce the risk of a patient developing the full blown disease. Details of the research will appear in the August 10 issue of the esteemed medical journal Neurology. The work was conducted by experts at the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, who were led by neurologist Bradley Boeve.

The team explains that some people may experience a sudden change in the nature of their dreams, if they develop an uncommon sleep disturbance known as REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). When this happens, their dreams may become very vivid, and also violent and brutal, and experts believe that this can be used as an indicator that a neurological condition is about to set in. The purpose of the new study was to determine with as much accuracy as possible the interval that exists between developing RBD and the time when a brain disorder is diagnosed.

“The consensus among all RBD researchers is that it’s not a matter of if, but when. Basically, the longer you follow these men, the more they will convert to a neurodegenerative disorder,” says Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center sleep expert Carlos Schenck. The scientist is one of the first researchers ever to look into and describe RBD. In the new research, it was evidenced that, in some cases, RBD can precede the development of the neurodegenerative condition known as Parkinson's disease by half a century.

“In the neurodegenerative realm, we just don’t know any other clinical manifestations that can start so far in advance. There are so few other illnesses that can have a window of decades from one clinical manifestation to another,” Boeve says. He explains that the work is very important because the general consensus among healthcare experts is that, once Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are sufficiently well-established to the diagnosed, it's too late to treat them.

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