Pathological consequences of intermittent hypoxia in the central nervous system

Compr Physiol. 2012 Jul;2(3):1767-77. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c100060.


Intermittent hypoxia (IH) is a frequent occurrence in clinical settings. In the last decades, evidence has emerged implicating the gas exchange alterations and sleep disruption associated with those disorders in the high prevalence of cognitive and behavioral deficits afflicting these patients. In an effort to better characterize the role of IH, and to identify potential mechanisms of IH-induced central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction, a large number of rodent models have been recently developed. The cumulative evidence confirms that IH indeed induces a heterotopic pattern of injury in the brain, particularly affecting cortical, subcortical, and hippocampal regions, ultimately leading to neuronal apoptosis and activation of microglia. These IH-induced deleterious processes exhibit substantial variability across the lifespan, are under substantial modulatory influences of diet, physical or intellectual activity, and genetic factors, and preferentially recruit oxidative stress and inflammatory pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology