Searching for a marker of REM sleep behavior disorder: Submentalis muscle EMG amplitude analysis during sleep in patients with narcolepsy/cataplexy

Raffaele Ferri, Christian Franceschini, Marco Zucconi, Stefano Vandi, Francesca Poli, Oliviero Bruni, Carlo Cipolli, Pasquale Montagna, Giuseppe Plazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objectives: To evaluate the amplitude of submentalis muscle EMG activity during sleep in patients with narcolepsy/cataplexy with or without REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). Design: Observational study with consecutive recruitment. Settings: Sleep laboratory. Patients: Thirty-four patients with narcolepsy/cataplexy and 35 age-matched normal controls. Measurements and results: Half the patients (17 subjects) had a clinical and video polysomnographic diagnosis of RBD. The average amplitude of the rectified submentalis muscle EMG signal was used to assess muscle atonia, and the new REM sleep Atonia Index was computed. Chin muscle activations were detected and their duration and interval analyzed. REM sleep Atonia Index was lower in both patient groups (with narcolepsy patients with RBD showing the lowest values) with respect to controls, and it did not correlate with age as it did in controls. The total number of chin EMG activations was significantly higher in both patient groups than controls. No significant differences were found between the two groups of patients, although more chin EMG activations were noted in narcolepsy patients with RBD than those without. Conclusions: Elevated muscle activity during REM sleep is the only polysomnographic marker of RBD. This study shows that polysomnographically evident RBD is present in many patients with narcolepsy/cataplexy. This condition might be specific to narcolepsy/cataplexy, reflecting a peculiar form of REM sleep related motor dyscontrol (i.e., status dissociatus), paving the way to enacting dream behaviors, and correlated with the specific neurochemical and neuropathological substrate of narcolepsy/cataplexy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1409-1417
Number of pages9
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2008


  • Narcolepsy/cataplexy
  • Polysomnography
  • Quantitative analysis
  • REM sleep behavior disorder
  • Submentalis EMG

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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