Monday, February 1, 2010

As Clear as Black and White: Study Shows that Severe OSA Patients Have Lower Concentration of Gray Matter

A study published today in the journal SLEEP found that men with severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have significantly less concentrated gray matter in multiple brain areas than healthy men of the same age.

“Gray matter” refers to the cerebral cortex. It is where most of the brain’s information processing takes place.

The study suggests that the memory and cognitive impairment frequently observed in OSA patients may relate to changes in brain structure.

The study involved 36 males with severe OSA. It compared their brain structures to that of 31 healthy males of matched age. The men’s mean age was 44 years.

The participants each took a sleep study. The OSA patients had a mean apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 52. This number indicates they partially or completely stopped breathing more than 52 times per hour during sleep. An AHI of more than 30 constitutes severe OSA. These pauses can lead to severe drops in blood-oxygen concentration.

The researchers used an MRI technique to characterize structural differences between the men’s brains. They looked to see if gray matter concentrations or volumes differed in OSA patients and healthy men.

The researchers found that gray matter concentration decreased in OSA patients without significant changes in volume of the matter.

They noted that more research would help determine if this loss occurs because of OSA, or if preexisting abnormalities contribute to the development of the disorder.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.