Default mode network disturbances in restless legs syndrome/Willis–Ekbom disease

Jeonghun Ku, Yeong Seon Lee, Hyuk Won Chang, Christopher J. Earley, Richard P. Allen, Yong Won Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The unusual sensations of restless legs syndrome/Willis–Ekbom disease (RLS/WED) are induced by rest or a low arousal state with a circadian variation in the threshold for induction. It has been suggested that the emergence of RLS/WED symptoms relates to abnormal brain functions dealing with internally generated stimuli. The purpose of this study was to investigate the changes in the default mode network (DMN) in RLS/WED subjects. Methods Sixteen drug-naïve, idiopathic, RLS/WED subjects, and 16 age-matched and gender-matched healthy subjects were scanned in an asymptomatic resting state. A comparison of the DMN was conducted between the two groups. Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Korean versions of the International RLS scale, and other sleep questionnaires were used. Results The results showed reductions in the DMN connectivity in the left posterior cingulate cortex, the right orbito-frontal gyrus, the left precuneus, and the right subcallosal gyrus of the RLS/WED subjects. The DMN connectivity was increased in sensory-motor-associated circuits, which included the right superior parietal lobule, the right supplementary motor area, and the left thalamus. In addition, the connectivity between the DMN and thalamus was negatively correlated with that in the orbito-frontal gyrus and the subcallosal gyrus in the subjects. Conclusions The results showed disturbances of the DMN in RLS/WED subjects that influence the thalamic relay sensory-motor-associated circuit. These findings may underscore the fact that RLS/WED subjects have disturbances in default mode network functions involving internal stimuli in the resting state. This may be related to compensatory changes to maintain resting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-11
Number of pages6
JournalSleep Medicine
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Default mode network
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Thalamic circuit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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