Familial diffuse Lewy body disease (DLBD) is rare and not yet associated with a defect in the synuclein gene. In the differential diagnosis of the parkinsonian syndromes, defects in vertical gaze tend to be identified with progressive supranuclear palsy. False-positive diagnosis of progressive supranuclear palsy can occur, and defects in vertical gaze have been reported in DLBD, although so far a pure vertical gaze palsy associated with pathological abnormalities in the substrate for vertical gaze has not been described.
To report the clinical and pathological findings in 2 siblings with DLBD, and to relate the distribution of the pathological abnormalities in the brainstem to centers for vertical gaze.
For several years, 2 Irish siblings experienced a progressive parkinsonism-dementia complex associated in one with a defect in vertical gaze and in both with visual hallucinations.
In both patients, results of pathological examination revealed (1) Lewy bodies positive for ubiquitin and α-synuclein together with cell loss and gliosis in the substantia nigra, locus ceruleus, and neocortex; and (2) similar findings in the rostral interstitial nucleus of the medial longitudinal fasciculus, the posterior commissure, and the interstitial nucleus of Cajal (substrates for vertical gaze).
Familial DLBD (not shown to be genetically as distinct from environmentally transmitted) has been shown to exist in an Irish family. Caution should be enjoined in the interpretation of defects in vertical gaze in the differential diagnosis of the parkinsonian syndromes.