The neurophysiology of hyperarousal in restless legs syndrome: Hints for a role of glutamate/GABA.


Oasi Research Institute-IRCCS, Troina, Italy. Electronic address: [Email]


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common sensory-motor circadian disorder, whose basic components include urge to move the legs, unpleasant sensory experience, and periodic leg movements during sleep, all associated with an enhancement of the individual's arousal state. Brain iron deficiency (BID) is considered to be a key initial pathobiological factor, based on alterations of iron acquisition by the brain, also moderated by genetic factors. In addition to the well-known dopaminergic involvement in RLS, previous studies pointed out that BID brings also a hyperglutamatergic state that influences a dysfunctional cortico-striatal-thalamic-cortical circuit in genetically vulnerable individuals. However, the enhancement of arousal mechanisms in RLS may also be explained by functional changes of the ascending arousal systems and by deficitary GABA-mediated inhibitory control. Very recently, it was also suggested that BID induces a hypoadenosinergic state in RLS, thus possibly providing a link for a putative unified pathophysiological mechanism accounting for both hyperarousal and sensory-motor signs. Consequently, RLS might be viewed as a multitransmitter neurochemical disorder, globally resulting in enhanced excitability and decreased inhibition. In this framework, understanding the complex interaction of different neuronal circuits in generating the symptoms of RLS is mandatory both for a better diagnostic refinement and for an innovative therapeutic support. Notably, multiple neurotransmission dysfunction, either primary or triggered by BID, may also bridge the gap between RLS and other chronic pain disorders. This chapter summarizes the current experimental and clinical findings into a heuristic model of the electrophysiology and neurochemistry underlying RLS.


Arousal,Dopamine,Excitability,GABA,Glutamate,Iron metabolism,Restless legs syndrome,