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Possible Brain Damage Seen in Children With Sleep Apnea

Possible Brain Damage Seen in Children With Sleep Apnea

BALTIMORE, Aug. 22 -- Children with obstructive sleep apnea may suffer hypoxic damage to brain areas governing learning, memory, and executive function, according to a study here.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements of metabolic activity in the brains of these children found abnormalities "indicating possible neuronal injury" in the left hippocampus and right frontal cortex, reported Ann C. Halbower, M.D., of Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, in the August issue of PloS Medicine.

Previous studies have suggested that obstructive sleep apnea is linked to learning and memory problems and poor school performance in children, but this is the first study to use MRI to identify what might be actual corresponding damage in these developing brains, Dr. Halbower and colleagues said.

Identifying and treating such damage is important, the researchers said, "since childhood obstructive sleep apnea impacts a rapidly developing brain, and thus the long-term consequences of neuronal injury may be far greater than those seen in adults."

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