The following article is part of conference coverage from the International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders (MDS) Virtual Annual Meeting. Neurology Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading experts in neurology. Check back for the latest news from the MDS 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting.


Depression, impaired attention, and memory recall are more common in patients with restless legs syndrome (RLS) compared with healthy control individuals, and observed differences in cognitive performance are most likely due to reduced sleep quality, according to study results presented at the International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders (MDS) Virtual Congress 2021, held from September 17 to 22, 2021.

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Previous studies have shown that RLS is associated with impaired energy, sleep, and performance, but there are conflicting results regarding the impact of RLS on cognitive function and mood.

The objective of the current study was to determine the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction and depression in patients with RLS and to assess the impact of RLS severity on these variables.

The retrospective study included data from 161 patients with RLS and 520 control participants, who completed cognitive testing, movement examination, and sleep and depression questionnaires. Patients with RLS were divided into 3 subgroups according to the severity of the condition.

With regard to cognitive function, there were significant differences between patients with RLS and control participants for Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) total learning (P =.006), AVLT long-term memory (P =.003), and Stroop Word Color (P =.004), but adjustment for sleep quality negated these differences between the RLS and control groups.

Depression was significantly more common among patients with RLS compared with control individuals (P <.001), even after omitting sleep-related questions. However, there was no difference in the prevalence of the mood disorder with increased RLS severity.

“The above data [demonstrate] reduced performance in attention and recall domains of cognitive testing in [patients with] RLS. However, this finding is negated when adjusted for sleep quality, with strong correlation noted between sleep quality and RLS severity. Our data also [demonstrate] increased prevalence of depression among those with RLS compared [with control participants]. However, increased RLS severity did not increase severity of depression in our population,” the researchers concluded.


Mangipudi K, Adler CH, Zhang M, et al. Impact of Restless Leg Syndrome Severity on Cognitive Function and Depression. Presented at: MDS Virtual Congress 2021; September 17-22, 2021. Poster 1206.