This study was conducted to evaluate cognitive abnormalities in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) using cognitive evoked potentials (P300), and to clarify if such cognitive dysfunction is related to the OSA itself or to the hypersomnolence in OSA. Subjects were administered a polysomnogram, auditory and visual P300 testing using 31 scalp electrodes, and the multiple sleep latency test. There were 40 normal subjects ages 26 to 75. Of 143 consecutive OSA patients ages 26 to 75, 56 had severe OSA (Respiratory Disturbance Index or RDI 40-80/h sleep) with objective somnolence (Mean Sleep Latency < 5 min). Thirty-three had severe OSA without objective somnolence. Fifty-four had profound OSA (RDI > 80/h sleep) with or without objective somnolence. The normals and the three OSA groups did not differ in age. Patients with profound OSA or with severe OSA without somnolence had longer visual P300 latency than normals. The groups also differed in visual P300 latency topography. OSA patients had significantly longer latencies frontally than normals. Thus, OSA, even in the absence of hypersomnolence, is associated with abnormalities in cognitive evoked potentials. Visual P300 latency at frontal electrodes seems to be a neurophysiological index of dysfunction in OSA that is independent of tests of sleepiness.