Daytime sleepiness in dementia with Lewy bodies is associated with neuronal depletion of the nucleus basalis of Meynert

Koji Kasanuki, Tanis Jill Ferman, Melissa E Murray, Michael G. Heckman, Otto D Pedraza, Fadi S. Hanna Al-Shaikh, Takayasu Mishima, Nancy N. Diehl, Jay A Van Gerpen, Ryan J. Uitti, Zbigniew K Wszolek, Neill R Graff Radford, Dennis W Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: Excessive daytime sleepiness is a commonly reported clinical feature of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) that can occur early in the disease. Cholinergic depletion is known to be severe in DLB, even when dementia severity is mild. The nucleus basalis of Meynert serves as a primary source of cortical acetylcholine, and has a role in facilitating cortical activation and arousal. We sought to determine whether daytime sleepiness at the initial evaluation of patients with DLB was associated with neuronal loss in the nucleus basalis of Meynert. Methods: Autopsy-confirmed patients who met clinical criteria for probable DLB at their initial evaluation and who were administered the informant-completed Epworth Sleepiness Scale were included in the study (n = 40). Each patient had a dementia at baseline (80% with mild severity) and two or more features of parkinsonism, visual hallucinations, fluctuations, or probable REM sleep behavior disorder. Quantitative digital pathology of the nucleus basalis of Meynert was performed in the DLB group and in 20 non-DLB autopsy controls. Results: DLB had greater neuronal depletion in the nucleus basalis of Meynert (p < 0.0001) than pathologic controls. Sleepiness was present in 58% of the DLB group and those with daytime sleepiness had significantly lower neuron counts in the nucleus basalis of Meynert than their non-sleepy counterparts (p = 0.001). Regression modeling revealed that sleepiness was a stronger predictor of neuronal loss in the nucleus basalis of Meynert than visual hallucinations, fluctuations or dementia severity (p = 0.003). Conclusions: Excessive daytime sleepiness in early DLB is indicative of a more profound loss of basal forebrain cholinergic integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • Basal forebrain
  • Epworth sleepiness scale
  • Fluctuations
  • Hypersomnolence
  • Parkinsonism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology

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