Finland (University of Oulu) Abnormal brain pulsations found in the brains of people with narcolepsy

Narcolepsy alters the pulsations that maintain the brain’s waste clearance system, shows a new study from the University of Oulu. The researchers’ discovery increases our understanding of the effects of narcolepsy on the brain, and may also help in the diagnosis of the disease.

Researchers imaged the brains of narcolepsy patients for the first time using fast functional magnetic resonance imaging. The method has previously been used to study Alzheimer’s disease as well as epilepsy and normal sleep.

Three types of pulsations are associated with brain clearance: cardiovascular pulsations of the brain arteries produced by the heartbeat, respiratory pulsations of the veins and cerebrospinal fluid, and slow vasomotor fluctuation of the vessel walls. The study showed that people with narcolepsy experience changes in all three types of brain pulsation.

Changes in pulsations were associated with the severity of the disease. Abnormalities in cardiac pulsation in brain regions relevant to narcolepsy were associated with the severity of symptoms experienced by the patient, with lower variability in cardiac pulsation predicting more severe symptoms. According to the researchers, this finding could be useful in optimising the treatment response to narcolepsy.

The study included 22 people with narcolepsy and an equal number of healthy sex- and age-matched controls.