Structural and functional neural adaptations in obstructive sleep apnea: An activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Jun;65:142-56. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.03.026. Epub 2016 Mar 31.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common multisystem chronic disorder. Functional and structural neuroimaging has been widely applied in patients with OSA, but these studies have often yielded diverse results. The present quantitative meta-analysis aims to identify consistent patterns of abnormal activation and grey matter loss in OSA across studies. We used PubMed to retrieve task/resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and voxel-based morphometry studies. Stereotactic data were extracted from fifteen studies, and subsequently tested for convergence using activation likelihood estimation. We found convergent evidence for structural atrophy and functional disturbances in the right basolateral amygdala/hippocampus and the right central insula. Functional characterization of these regions using the BrainMap database suggested associated dysfunction of emotional, sensory, and limbic processes. Assessment of task-based co-activation patterns furthermore indicated that the two regions obtained from the meta-analysis are part of a joint network comprising the anterior insula, posterior-medial frontal cortex and thalamus. Taken together, our findings highlight the role of right amygdala, hippocampus and insula in the abnormal emotional and sensory processing in OSA.

Keywords: Amygdala; Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Hippocampus; Insula; Obstructive sleep apnea; Voxel-based morphometry (VBM).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive*