Obstructive sleep apnea and its controversial effects on cognition

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2017 Sep;39(7):659-669. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2016.1253668. Epub 2016 Nov 15.


Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is a sleep disorder that may affect many brain functions. We are interested in the cognitive consequences of the condition with regard to the quality of life of individuals with this disorder. A debate is still underway as to whether cognitive difficulties caused by obstructive sleep apnea actually induce a "pseudodementia" pattern. This work provides a brief overview of the main controversies currently surrounding this issue. We report findings and opinions on structural and cognitive brain changes in individuals affected by obstructive sleep apnea by highlighting the involvement of executive functions and the possible reversibility of signs following-treatment with continuous positive airway pressure. Much research has been done on this issue but, to the best of our knowledge, a review of the present state of the literature evaluating different points of view has not yet been carried out.

Keywords: Cognitive deficits; Continuous positive airway pressure; Frontal lobe; Hippocampus; Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome; Sleep apnea..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy