Sleep apnoea linked to changes in brain structure

Nov 26, 2010

Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs when someone stops breathing while sleeping, because their airway at the back of the throat becomes blocked. This can lead to excessive sleepiness, increased risk of stroke and heart attack, and cognitive impairment.

The changes in the brain that cause these cognitive effects are little understood, and studies into links between apnoea and changes in have so far yielded conflicting results.

Now, research from the UK and Australia has reinforced the idea that there are differences in brain structure between people with sleep apnoea and healthy controls, although more work is needed to understand how these differences affect brain function. For the study, 60 people with severe sleep apnoea were recruited from sleep clinics at the Royal Brompton and Charing Cross Hospitals in London and Austin Health, Melbourne, alongside 60 healthy controls. The researchers used to compare the volume of grey matter in the two groups.

Compared with controls, people with sleep apnoea had significantly reduced amounts of grey matter in the temporal lobe and the cerebellum. The team concludes that these deficits could negatively affect motor processing and working memory – which could, in combination with sleepiness, impair the everyday tasks such as driving that suffer as a result of sleep apnoea.

The condition is thought to affect around 2-4 per cent of younger adults and over 15 per cent of elderly people.

Explore further: Saudi Arabia reports pilgrim infected with MERS

More information: Morrell MJ et al. Changes in brain morphology in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Thorax 2010;65:908-14.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sleep disorders common among professional drivers

May 10, 2010

Sleep disorders are common among bus and tram drivers in Gothenburg: a quarter say that they have problems with daytime sleepiness, which could affect safety. Such are the results of a new study from the Sahlgrenska Academy ...

Weight loss reduces sleep problems in obese men

Dec 04, 2009

Weight loss reduces obstructive sleep apnoea in obese men, with the greatest effect seen in patients with severe disease, according to new research published in the British Medical Journal today.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.