Sleep Apnea Slows Down Brain Function in Kids
Chemical changes in the brains of children with obstructive sleep apnea affect areas associated with learning, memory, and executive function, researchers found.
Treatment, however, appears to reverse the affects, and is associated with normalization of brain chemistry and improvement in attention and executive function.
Researchers tested 16 children with sleep apnea and 11 controls using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, as well as other neuropsychological tests, and found that the ratio of N-acetyl-aspartate to choline (NAA/Cho) in the children’s prefrontal cortex and hippocampus was significantly lower in those with sleep apnea. This ratio is used to measure how active brain cells are. Those with sleep apnea also showed significantly decreased working memory, attention, and verbal memory.
After 6 months of treatment, the average NAA/Cho ratio in the prefrontal cortex had risen significantly, matching the ratio seen in the healthy control group. Ratios in the hippocampus also improved, although not to match controls. Researchers speculated that the hippocampus might simply take longer to recover.
"Earlier diagnosis and treatment may improve the trajectory of development," they said.