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Executive Dysfunction and Learning Effect after Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome

Saunamäki T.a, c · Himanen S.-L.d, f · Polo O.b, e · Jehkonen M.a, c
Departments of aNeurology and Rehabilitation and bPulmonary Medicine, Tampere University Hospital, Departments of cPsychology, dPhysiology, and eRespiratory Diseases, University of Tampere, and fDepartment of Clinical Neurophysiology, Medical Imaging Centre, Pirkanmaa Hospital District, Tampere, Finland Eur Neurol 2010;63:215–220 (DOI:10.1159/000278301)


Aims: To assess the impact of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment on executive dysfunction in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). Methods: At baseline, 20 OSAS patients and 17 healthy controls underwent polysomnography and neuropsychological assessment focusing on executive functions. After at least 6 months of CPAP treatment, the patients returned for one more full-night polysomnography and neuropsychological control assessment, while the controls underwent a neuropsychological control assessment. Results: All patients and controls were working-age males. OSAS severity ranged from mild to severe. Before CPAP, patients showed poorer performance than controls in the copy of the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test, the Block Design, the Digit Symbol, the Trails B and the Intra-Extra Dimensional Set-Shifting task. Patients’ executive performance showed no improvement after CPAP, and it remained poorer than the performance of controls. In addition, patients showed no learning effect in the executive tests, whereas the controls did. Conclusion: Even long-term CPAP treatment does not seem to improve OSAS patients’ mental set-shifting performance or their visuospatial organizational skills. In addition, OSAS patients have impaired learning effect in executive tests.


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