Dementia worsens as the nerve cells in the brain become progressively damaged and can no longer function. Over time, this can jeopardise a person’s thinking abilities and motor skills. This is why some patients start to develop a specific type of myoclonus known as pill-rolling tremors.
The most obvious cause for physiologic tremors is caffeine and other stimulants that make blood flow more pronounced.
Pill rolling tremors are often observed in patients with Parkinson’s, but other neurological causes may include Lewy body dementia.
The resting tremors are referred to as pill-rolling tremors because they appear as if a person is rolling a pill or other small object between their thumb and index finger.
When a tremor occurs, it reflects issues in the part of the brain that controls movement, known as the basal ganglia.
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This region, found deep in the brain, comprises several structures located in the thalamus.
In Parkinson’s disease, this structure of the brain doesn’t receive enough dopamine to form connections between euros.
This leads to interrupted communication within the brain which results in movements not occurring so smoothly.
In 2015, a report published in Tremor and Other Hyperkinetic Movements suggested myoclonus may be a “common clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease”.
The report cited a study, in which eight percent of patients with Alzheimer’s disease had a myoclonic variant, characterised by presenile onset with severe cognitive deterioration, mutism and early-onset myoclonus.
The report stated: “Myoclonus is more commonly seen in early-onset and rapidly progressive Alzheimer’s disease, where its prevalence may be as high as 75 percent.”
Myoclonus describes a sudden, brief voluntary twitching or jerking of a muscle or group of muscles.
The twitching general cannot be stopped or controlled by the person.
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It tends not to be diagnosed as a disease itself, but rather describes a clinical sign of an underlying condition.
In 2011, a report published in the journal Neurology made a note-worthy observation about the myoclonus in dementia patients.
The report noted: “Most motor signs occur frequently and progress rapidly in Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Tremor is an exception in that it occurs less frequently and advances at slower rates,” adds the report.
The other motor symptoms of dementia include slowed movement, decreased body tone, and impaired gait.
According to Science Direct, some of these symptoms may even develop “before a decline in cognitive function”.
The health body states that hand fine motor skill disability is more prevalent in moderate to severe dementia.
In other words, those with severe dementia are more likely to suffer from an inability to perform tasks that require a degree of manual dexterity.