Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is accompanied by structural brain changes, as shown by neuroimaging findings from several groups.

These neural changes likely contribute to central nervous system dysfunction in OSA, including psychological and physiologic comorbidities. However, the nature of how the brain is altered in OSA remains unclear, and in particular the question of whether irreversible brain injury predominates over acute but reversible pathology is unresolved.

A study published in SLEEP helps address that question, and the findings suggest that the structural changes in OSA consist of a mixture of irreversible atrophy and cell death, and non-lethal pathology such as inflammation.