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brain-damage

Studies show that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects much more than just your sleep. It can even damage your brain.

A recent brain imaging study from France involved 16 adults. Each of them had just been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

In numerous brain regions the study found a loss of “gray matter.” This is brain tissue that contains fibers and nerve cell  bodies. There also was a decrease in brain metabolism.

The authors suggest that these changes may explain some of the impairments that often occur in people with sleep apnea. Examples include attention lapses and memory loss. The study was published in March 2009 issue of the Journal of Sleep Research.

The results are similar to those found by a research team from UCLA. Their study was published in Neuroscience Letters in June 2008. They reported that people with sleep apnea have tissue loss in the “mammillary bodies.” These are brain regions that help store memory.

In July 2008 the UCLA team published another brain imaging study in the journal Sleep.It involved 41 people with moderate to severe sleep apnea. It also included 69 control subjects matched by age.

Results show that people with sleep apnea have extensive alterations in “white matter.” This is nerve tissue in the brain. It contains fibers that are insulated with myelin -a white, fatty sheath. The structural changes appear in brain regions that help control mood and memory. These regions also play a role in adjusting your blood pressure. Damage also was found in fiber pathways that connect these brain regions.

What causes the brain damage? The authors suggest that oxygen, blood flow and blood pressure may be involved. Sleep apnea involves breathing pauses that can occur hundreds of times a night of sleep. These pauses can produce drastic changes in oxygen levels.

These breathing pauses also reduce blood flow in the brain. People with sleep apnea also are at risk for high blood pressure. Both of these conditions create a potential for brain tissue damage.

Dr. Ronald Harper of UCLA said that the studies show how important it is for sleep apnea to be treated. CPAP is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. The findings make it all the more imperative that OSA be treated as soon as possible to prevent further injury. The long-term effects of OSA are terribly damaging to memory and thinking processes.

Can treatment reverse the brain damage caused by sleep apnea? The authors are uncertain if the changes are permanent.

But studies show that CPAP does help your heart, it may even save your life.

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Have you see the happy hippo….? Things starting to get a little weird up-stairs, can’t seem to concentrate, so tired….

 This is notable apparent in soldiers in combat zones, medical residents and even new parents. Now there’s a neurological basis for this theory, accodting to new research from the Unvr. of Cali and Harvard Med school.

 In the first neural investigation into what happens to the emotional brain without sleep, results from a brain imaging study suggest that while a good nights’ rest can regulate your mood and help you cope with the next days emotional challenges, sleep deprivation does the opposite by excessively boosting the part of the brain most closely connected to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.

“It’s almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses,” said Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuro-imaging Lab.

“Emotionally, you’re not on a level playing field, ” Walker added.

  That’s because the amygdala (ouu say that 5 times fast, shoot try saying it once 😉 ) the region of the brain that alerts the body to protect itself in times of danger, goes into overdrive on no sleep, according to the study. This consequently shuts down the prefrontal cortex, which commands logical reasoning, and thus prevents the release of chemicals needed to calm down the fight-or-flight reflex.

  If, for example, the amygdala reacts strongly to a violent movie, the prefrontal cortex lets the brain know that the scene is make-believe and to settle down. But instead of connecting to the prefrontal cortex, the brain on no sleep connects to the locus coeruleus, the oldest part of the brain, which releases noradrenalin to ward off imminent threats to survival, posing a volatile mix, accoding to the study.

  The study’s findings lay the groundwork for further investigation into the relationship between sleep and psychiatric illnesses. Clinical evidence has shown that some form of sleep disruption is present in almost all psychiatric disorders.

“This is the first set of experiments that demonstrate that even healthy people’s brains mimic certain pathological psychiatric patterns when deprived of sleep, “Walker said. “Before, it was difficult to separate out the effect of sleep versus the disease itself. Now we’re closer to being able to look into wheather the person has a psychiatric disease or a sleep disorder.’

  Using functioning Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Walker and his team found that the amygdala, which is also a key to processing emotions, became hyperactive in response to negative visual stimuli – mutilated bodies, children with tumors and otehr gory images- in study participants who stayed awake for 35 hours straight. Conversely, brain scans of those who got a full nights sleep in thier own beds showed normal activity in the amygdala.

“The emotional centers of the brain were over 60 percent more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation that in subjects who had obtained a normal night of sleep.” Walker said, after conducting the study.

  The team studied 26 healthy participants aged 18 to 30, breaking them into two groups of equal numbers of males and females. The sleep-deprived group stayed awake during day 1, night 1 and day 2, while the sleep-control group stayed awake both days and slept normally during the night. During the fMRI brain scanning, which was performed at the end of day 2, each was shown 100 images that ranged from neutral to very negative. Using this emotional gradient, the researchers were able to compare the increase in brain response to the increasingly negative pictures.

  During Walker’s research, he was struck with the consistency of how graduate students in his studies would turn from affable, rational beings into what he called, “emotional JELL-O” after a night without sleep. He and his assistants searched for research that would explain the effect of sleep deprivation on the emotional brain and found none, although there is countless anecdotal evidence that lack of sleep causes emotional swings.


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