Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Specific Areas of Brain Damage Associated with Sleep Apnea

Italian researchers have identified several regions in the brain that suffer damage as a result of obstructive sleep apnea. They also found that these regions responded to treatment with significant structural recovery.

The researchers matched 17 sleep apnea sufferers with 15 age-matched healthy individuals. All subjects underwent a sleep study, took cognitive tests, and underwent magnetic resonance imaging. Then the sleep apnea sufferers began treatment. Three months later, the tests were repeated.

Initially, the sleep apnea sufferers showed impairment in most cognitive areas, as well as their mood. Many reported sleepiness. They also showed focal reductions in brain matter in the enthorhinal cortex, the left posterior parietal cortex, and the right superior frontal gyrus. The Enthorhinal cortex plays an important role in memory, especially biographical memory. The posterior parietal cortex controls voluntary movements. The superior frontal gyrus has been shown to be involved in self-awareness, mood, laughter, spatial cognition, and working memory. Identifying these damaged regions provides important insight into the mechanisms of sleep apnea's dangers. It shows, too, that there are other potential risks that cannot objectively be measured. With sleep apnea, you may be at risk for losing important parts of your identity and self-awareness.

Fortunately, the researchers also found that treatment of sleep apnea could reverse the damage suffered in these specific regions of the brain. Although the researchers used CPAP as the treatment method, it is likely that other adequate treatment methods like oral appliance therapy could lead to similar reverses.

If you are a sleep apnea sufferer, don't put your life and your personality at risk, get treatment today. To learn more about sleep apnea treatment options, please contact a local sleep dentist today.

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posted by Dr. Candelaria at 2:30 PM