Restless legs syndrome due to brain malfunction

Researchers have found that people with restless legs syndrome, a disorder that causes a powerful urge to move the legs, particularly at night, have reduced function in an area of the brain important for controlling movement.

In fact, preliminary results from the study at Neuroscience Research Australia suggest that people with this disorder have up to 80 per cent less function in this brain region compared with healthy people.

“This is a disorder that is thought to affect 1 in 20 people, and can severely affect quality of life, but we still don’t know very much about it. This study is helping us understand what happens in the brain to cause these symptoms, which will help us find better treatments,” lead researcher Prof Kay Double said.

Restless legs syndrome is a disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the limbs. It often flares up at night and disturbs sleep.

The study used ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging to look for changes in the structure and function of brain.

Prof Double said: “This is the first time that anyone has looked for these type of changes in people with restless legs syndrome.

“If we can understand what is happening in the brain, we will be one step closer to helping the thousands with restless legs get a better night’s sleep and lead a better quality of life.”

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