18th Annual Delsys Prize Winner

“REM sleep without atonia as prodromal neurophysiological sign of Parkinson’s disease”



Dr. Femke Dijkstra

University of Antwerp


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The work reflects an advancement in the understanding of the information content of the EMG signal, recorded during polysomnographic studies. REM sleep without atonia or RSWA is a potential early biomarker for Parkinson's disease (PD) and related synucleinopathies. The analysis of the surface EMG signal during REM sleep in specific muscles (m. mentalis, m. tibialis anterior) can contribute to the identification of subjects at risk for developing PD. Our research team has contributed to an increase in knowledge on isolated RSWA, i.e. loss of muscle atonia in REM sleep without dream-enacting behaviour and not explained by other diseases or medication-related effects. EMG signal analysis during sleep could therefore assist in the identification of patients at risk to develop PD and could be valuable in the selection of patients for neuroprotective treatments.

"We are deeply honored to have been selected as winner of the 2021 Delsys Prize and are extremely grateful to the De Luca Foundation. We thank all our team members at the Antwerp University Hospital, the General Hospital Geel and other centers for their commitment to the research project. We are convinced that this generous support from the De Luca Foundation will be of great value to our research team and will help us to achieve innovative insights and developments in the early detection of Parkinson’s disease and related movement disorders.”

About Dr. Femke Dijkstra

Dr. Femke Dijkstra

Femke Dijkstra is a neurologist from the University of Antwerp (Belgium) with a special interest in the relation between sleep dysfunction and movement disorders. She is currently working as research/clinical fellow in Movement Disorders at the Department of Neurology in the Antwerp University Hospital. Her research project is a collaboration between the Antwerp University Hospital and the General Hospital Geel. The overall aim of the research project is to investigate disturbances in muscle tonus (measured with surface EMG) and movements during sleep as early signs of Parkinson’s disease and related disorders.