Motor pattern of periodic limb movements in sleep in idiopathic RLS patients

G. Plazzi, R. Vetrugno, S. Meletti, F. Provini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) are recurrent sleep-related movements that often occur in association with restless legs syndrome (RLS). The purpose of the present study was to examine the pathophysiology of PLMS in patients with idiopathic RLS. Methods: Ten patients with idiopathic RLS who were medication-free or who had withdrawn from medication at least 2 weeks prior to the study underwent an extensive neurophysiological investigation that included nocturnal video-polysomnographic recording (VPSG), EMG recording, and the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). Sleep efficiency and PLMS index were calculated during VPSG. Results: All patients had an increased PLMS index, decreased sleep efficiency, and a pathological MSLT score. Leg muscles were the first to be activated, often with alternation of side, and no constant recruitment pattern could be found from one episode of PLMS to another, even in the same patient. No ordinate caudal or rostral spread of the EMG activity was observed. Conclusions: The results suggest that there are different, independent, and unsynchronized generators for PLMS. The direct participation of the cerebral cortex in the origin of PLMS is unlikely, suggesting that abnormal spinal cord hyperexcitability may act as the primary cause of PLMS, triggered by unidentified sleep-related factors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSleep Medicine
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


  • Motor pattern
  • Restless legs syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Dentistry(all)


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