Sleep apnea-related cognitive deficits and intelligence: an implication of cognitive reserve theory

Manos Alchanatis, Nikolaos Zias, Nikolaos Deligiorgis, Anastasia Amfilochiou, Giorgos Dionellis, Dora Orphanidou
Journal of Sleep Research 2005, 14 (1): 69-75
Cognitive deficits in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) are well demonstrated, but the pathophysiology of these deficits is still controversial, as the relationship between OSA severity and cognitive deficits is usually weak. Our study considers the possible relationship between OSA-related cognitive deficits and the overall intellectual function of OSA patients. Forty-seven OSA patients and 36 normal individuals underwent a neuropsychological battery test assessing attention and alertness. According to the resulting IQ score, patients and controls were divided into a high-intelligence group (IQ > or = 90th percentile) and a normal-intelligence group (50 < or = IQ < 90%ile). Between the two patient groups there were no significant differences noticed, regarding OSA severity or sleepiness. High-intelligence patients showed the same attention/alertness performance compared with the high-intelligence controls. On the contrary, patients with normal-intelligence showed attention/alertness decline compared with the normal-intelligence control group. The two patient groups were re-examined with the same battery test after at least 1 year of CPAP treatment. At re-examination neither patient group showed any differences regarding attention and alertness compared with the control groups. We assume that high-intelligence may have a protective effect against OSA-related cognitive decline, perhaps due to increased cognitive reserve.

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