August 2, 2009

Sleep linked to Parkinson’s dementia

A single night's sleep loss caused long-lasting cognitive disruptions in fruit flies comparable to Parkinson's-associated dementia, U.S. researchers say.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, modeled Parkinson's-associated dementia in genetically altered fruit flies. The researchers not only found a single night of sleep loss causes long-lasting disruptions in the flies' cognitive abilities comparable to aspects of Parkinson's-associated dementia, but they are able to block this effect by feeding the flies large doses of the spice curcumin.

Clinical trials of curcumin to reduce risk of Parkinson's disease are a future possibility, but for now we are using the flies to learn how curcumin works, study author Dr. James Galvin of Washington University in St. Louis said in a statement. This should help us find other compounds that can mimic curcumin's protective effects but are more specific.

More than 74 percent of Parkinson's patients have trouble sleeping, and up to 80 percent of patients age 65 and older who have Parkinson's disease for seven years will develop dementia, Galvin says.