Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sleep Apnea Linked To Early Brain Damage

Date:
November 21, 2002
Source:
University Of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
UCLA scientists have discovered that patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea show gray matter loss in brain areas that regulate breathing and speech. Nearly 40 percent of these patients also stuttered as children, suggesting that the nighttime breathing disorder may arise from faulty brain wiring early in life. The study was published in the Nov. 15 edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

UCLA scientists have discovered that patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea show gray matter loss in brain areas that regulate breathing and speech. Nearly 40 percent of these patients also stuttered as children, suggesting that the nighttime breathing disorder may arise from faulty brain wiring early in life. The study was published in the Nov. 15 edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"For decades, we have blamed sleep apnea solely on a narrowed airway caused by enlarged tonsils, a small jaw or excess fat in the throat," said Dr. Ronald Harper, principal investigator and professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Our findings show, however, that sleep apnea patients also suffer disordered wiring in brain regions that control muscles of the airway. These glitches may lead to the syndrome, which is exacerbated by a small airway."

Harper's team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare brain structures of 21 men who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea to 21 men who did not suffer from the disorder. Then they weighed their findings against a template derived from 152 normal MRI scans obtained from the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Both sets of men were matched for age and weight. The researchers also considered the effects of disease severity, tobacco use, hypertension, cardiovascular health and whether the men were left- or right-handed in their comparison.

The MRIs revealed dramatic gray matter loss in the brains of the men with sleep apnea. Curiously, the tissue loss occurred primarily in regions of the brain that control speech production, movement and emotion. The amount of brain damage directly correlated to the severity of the patient's disorder. The healthy men's brains ranged from 2 percent to 18 percent larger in these areas than the men with sleep apnea.

"We propose that early damage to the brain's speech center triggers problems in the muscles that control the airway," said Dr. Paul Macey, first author and assistant researcher of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "This, in turn, eventually leads to sleep apnea."

"Our findings suggest this sleep apnea is a pre-existing condition -- that abnormal brain wiring from childhood contributes to the onset of the disorder in adulthood," Harper said. "The evidence in the brain is very specific."

Harper noted that obstructive sleep apnea patients often display other traits that suggest subtle brain damage, including problems with memory, thought and motor skills. "The repeated oxygen loss from sleep apnea may damage other brain structures that regulate memory and thinking," he said.

The UCLA researchers uncovered another intriguing finding. In an online supplement to their article, Harper and Macey wrote that 38 percent of the sleep apnea patients reported a history of stuttering or speech impairment. Most of the men had struggled with word-formation problems since childhood, and some still had language difficulties as adults.

The incidence of stuttering in the general population is 7 percent.

"Because the sleep apnea patients possessed speech impairments from childhood and their brain's speech center revealed significant gray matter loss, this brain damage likely originated early in life," Macey said.

The next step will be to examine the brain structures of children afflicted with obstructive sleep apnea, who may not have battled the disease long enough to develop the brain damage found in adults.

"Speech impediments may prove an important diagnostic clue for assessing and treating sleep apnea," Macey said. "In the future, doctors may monitor certain brain structures and examine children for speech or movement problems that may predict a higher sleep apnea risk."

Nearly 4 percent of the U.S. population suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, which causes explosively loud snoring at night and extreme sleepiness during the day. People who suffer from the disorder constantly struggle to breathe during sleep, because their throat and mouth relax to such a degree that their airway collapses. They wake up to begin breathing, then repeat the cycle throughout the night, seriously disrupting their sleep.

The loss of oxygen and the constant struggle to breathe increase sleep apnea patients' risk of high blood pressure, stroke and other heart-related ailments. The disorder is most common in men, the elderly, the obese and children with large tonsils -- but not all people with these characteristics develop the disease.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute supported the UCLA study. Harper and Macey's co-authors included Luke Henderson, Katherine Macey, Jeffry Alger, Robert Frysinger, Mary Woo, Rebecca Harper and Frisca Yan-Go.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California - Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California - Los Angeles. "Sleep Apnea Linked To Early Brain Damage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021121065148.htm>.
University Of California - Los Angeles. (2002, November 21). Sleep Apnea Linked To Early Brain Damage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021121065148.htm
University Of California - Los Angeles. "Sleep Apnea Linked To Early Brain Damage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021121065148.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins