Childhood nightmares may predict parkinsonism 40 years later

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(ORDO NEWS) — Some children are more likely than others to have nightmares. Such dreams may indicate an increased risk of cognitive impairment and Parkinson’s disease in the distant future, at age 50 and older.

Parkinson’s disease is a severe neurodegenerative disease. It develops slowly, usually at an older age, leading to impaired movement and balance, painful tremors, cognitive decline, and eventually death.

According to WHO, parkinsonism is ahead of all other neurological disorders in terms of increasing disability and mortality.

The disease is associated with the gradual death of neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is not yet possible to stop this process, the treatment remains symptomatic.

Even in advance to predict its development is not possible. Hope for such a diagnosis is given by… dreams that people see at a young and even childhood age.

Back in 2022, Abidemi Otaiku, a neurologist at the University of Birmingham, noticed that many Parkinson’s patients suffered from abnormally frequent nightmares in the years prior to diagnosis.

Therefore, the scientist decided to find out how early such manifestations can be noted in future patients.

To do this, he used data from the British 1958 NCDS survey, during which they tracked the life, health and condition of several thousand babies born in England, Scotland and Wales between March 3 and March 9, 1958.

In 1965 and 1969, when children reached ages seven and 11, their mothers, in particular, answered a question about the frequency of nightmares.

This allowed Abidemi Otaiko to divide almost 7,000 babies into three groups: those who did not have nightmares, those to whom they came from time to time, and finally, those who suffered from them regularly.

Next, the scientist turned to the data of a survey of these people, conducted in 2008, when they were already 50 years old.

The correlation was striking: those who reported frequent nightmares as children were 76 percent more likely to develop cognitive impairment and 640 percent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

It is worth adding that this group was not too numerous.

Only four percent (268 people) of the entire sample were classified as permanently suffering from frightening dreams, and only six percent of them (17 people) were subsequently diagnosed with parkinsonism.

What is the nature of the connection between dreams and neurodegenerative processes is not clear. Abidemi Otaikou notes that the frequency of nightmares is largely genetically determined.

Perhaps the same, but so far unknown hereditary factors simultaneously determine regular nightmares, the development of parkinsonism and other similar diseases.


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