According to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with structural changes in the brain that are also found in the early stages of dementia.
The study evaluated 83 people, aged 51 to 88 years, who had reported cognitive decline. Findings showed that patients who had low levels of blood oxygen during sleep tended to have reduced thickness in the left and right temporal lobes of the brain, and that this alteration was associated with poorer encoding of new information. In addition, the researchers observed that patients with signs of OSA were more likely to have increased thickness in other areas of the brain.
The authors are continuing their research to determine whether diagnosing and treating OSA could prevent, or even improve cognitive decline in its early stages.