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.

Related Articles


"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 December 17, 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 December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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