Persistent neuropsychological deficits and vigilance impairment in sleep apnea syndrome after treatment with continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP)

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 1993 Mar;15(2):330-41. doi: 10.1080/01688639308402567.


The obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is characterized by nocturnal sleep disturbance, excessive daytime sleepiness and neuropsychological deficits in the areas of memory, attention, and executive tasks. In the present study, these clinical manifestations were assessed in apneic patients before and 6 months after treatment with nasally applied continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP treatment was found to restore normal respiration during sleep and to normalize sleep organization. Daytime vigilance greatly improved with treatment but some degree of somnolence as compared to normal controls persisted. Similarly, most neuropsychological deficits normalized with treatment. The exception was for planning abilities and manual dexterity, two neuropsychological deficits that have been found to be highly correlated with the severity of nocturnal hypoxemia. These results raise the possibility that anoxic brain damage is a pathogenic factor in severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / psychology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / therapy
  • Sleep Stages
  • Speech / physiology