Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Golden Years: Is Old Age All in Your Mind?

A new study shows that treating sleep apnea may play an important role in maintaining brain function during old age.

The study was published by the American Journal of Repertory and Critical Care Medicine.

Natural aging is associated with cognitive deficits similar to those found in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients. OSA can cause memory and concentration problems.

People affected by OSA or healthy aging can experience cerebral compensation during cognitive activities. This study examined if the presence of both old age and OSA caused stronger compensatory response than those factors alone. They suspected that the presence of both OSA and old age might overwhelm the brain’s capacity to maintain performance.

The study involved 14 OSA patients. The patients were 25 to 59 years-old. Fourteen age-matched controls also took part. People less than 45-years-old were “young.” “Middle-age” patients and controls were 45-years-old or more.

Each participant took a sleep study. They also took a functional MRI session to test their attention and verbal encoding skills.

The researchers compared the results between the middle-age and young OSA patients and middle-age and young controls.

Middle-age OSA patients showed reduced performance for immediate word recall. They also had slower reaction times during sustained attention activities.

For both tasks, decreased activation was detected in the Middle-age OSA group in contrast to the young OSA and control groups.

These results suggest that the dual-presence of OSA and increasing age overwhelmed the brain’s capacity to respond to cognitive challenges.

This study underscores the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of OSA.

Image by Tree & J Hensdill

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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.