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One of the core diagnostic criteria for Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is the presence of visual hallucinations. The presence of hallucinations, along with fluctuations in the level of arousal and sleep disturbance, point to potential pathological mechanisms at the level of the thalamus. However, the potential role of thalamic dysfunction in DLB, particularly as it relates to the presence of formed visual hallucinations is not known. Here, we review the literature on the pathophysiology of DLB with respect to modern theories of thalamocortical function and attempt to derive an understanding of how such hallucinations arise. Based on the available literature, we propose that combined thalamic-thalamic reticular nucleus and thalamocortical pathology may explain the phenomenology of visual hallucinations in DLB. In particular, diminished α7 cholinergic activity in the thalamic reticular nucleus may critically disinhibit thalamocortical activity. Further, concentrated pathological changes within the posterior regions of the thalamus may explain the predilection for the hallucinations to be visual in nature.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews
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A neurodegenerative disease characterized by dementia, mild parkinsonism, and fluctuations in attention and alertness. The neuropsychiatric manifestations tend to precede the onset of bradykinesia, MUSCLE RIGIDITY, and other extrapyramidal signs. DELUSIONS and visual HALLUCINATIONS are relatively frequent in this condition. Histologic examination reveals LEWY BODIES in the CEREBRAL CORTEX and BRAIN STEM. SENILE PLAQUES and other pathologic features characteristic of ALZHEIMER DISEASE may also be present. (From Neurology 1997;48:376-380; Neurology 1996;47:1113-1124)
Repetitive visual hallucinations experienced mostly by elderly with diminished visual acuity or visual field loss, with awareness of the fictional nature of their hallucinations. It is not associated with delusions and other sensory hallucinations.
Intracytoplasmic, eosinophilic, round to elongated inclusions found in vacuoles of injured or fragmented neurons. The presence of Lewy bodies is the histological marker of the degenerative changes in LEWY BODY DISEASE and PARKINSON DISEASE but they may be seen in other neurological conditions. They are typically found in the substantia nigra and locus coeruleus but they are also seen in the basal forebrain, hypothalamic nuclei, and neocortex.
A progressive, degenerative neurologic disease characterized by a TREMOR that is maximal at rest, retropulsion (i.e. a tendency to fall backwards), rigidity, stooped posture, slowness of voluntary movements, and a masklike facial expression. Pathologic features include loss of melanin containing neurons in the substantia nigra and other pigmented nuclei of the brainstem. LEWY BODIES are present in the substantia nigra and locus coeruleus but may also be found in a related condition (LEWY BODY DISEASE, DIFFUSE) characterized by dementia in combination with varying degrees of parkinsonism. (Adams et al., Principles of Neurology, 6th ed, p1059, pp1067-75)
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