Better breathing means a better brain? A new study “Global Brain Blood-Oxygen Level Responses to Autonomic Challenges in Obstructive Sleep Apnea” suggests the damage done in the brains of sleep apnea sufferers comes down to weaker brain blood flow. Paul Macey of the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Nursing led the research, with funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research.
UCLA newsroom reports that Macey and colleagues measured brain blood flow in sleep apnea patients using a non-invasive MRI procedure called the global blood volume and oxygen dependent (BOLD) signal.
They explain that this method is typically used to examine brain activity, and since previous research showed that sleep apnea sufferers often have poor regulation of blood in the brain, they used the whole-brain BOLD signal to observe blood flow in participants with and without OSA.
“We know there is injury to the brain from sleep apnea,” says Macey, “and we also know that the heart has problems pumping blood to the body, and potentially also to the brain.”
“He explains that by using the BOLD method, they were able to observe changes in oxygenated blood amounts throughout the whole brain,” writes Ellis. “Participants from the study, which included both men and women with and without OSA, had their BOLD signals measured while they were awake during three physical tasks.”