The Link between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Neurocognitive Impairment An Official American Thoracic Society Workshop Report

American Thoracic Society Assembly on Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology

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There is emerging evidence that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a risk factor for preclinical Alzheimer’s disease (AD). An American Thoracic Society workshop was convened that included clinicians, basic scientists, and epidemiologists with expertise in OSA, cognition, and dementia, with the overall objectives of summarizing the state of knowledge in the field, identifying important research gaps, and identifying potential directions for future research. Although currently available cognitive screening tests may allow for identification of cognitive impairment in patients with OSA, they should be interpreted with caution. Neuroimaging in OSA can provide surrogate measures of disease chronicity, but it has methodological limitations. Most data on the impact of OSA treatment on cognition are for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), with limited data for other treatments. The cognitive domains improving with CPAP show considerable heterogeneity across studies. OSA can negatively influence risk, manifestations, and possibly progression of AD and other forms of dementia. Sleep-dependent memory tasks need greater incorporation into OSA testing, with better delineation of sleep fragmentation versus intermittent hypoxia effects. Plasma biomarkers may prove to be sensitive, feasible, and scalable biomarkers for use in clinical trials. There is strong biological plausibility, but insufficient data, to prove bidirectional causality of the associations between OSA and aging pathology. Engaging, recruiting, and retaining diverse populations in health care and research may help to decrease racial and ethnic disparities in OSA and AD. Key recommendations from the workshop include research aimed at underlying mechanisms; longer-term longitudinal studies with objective assessment of OSA, sensitive cognitive markers, and sleep-dependent cognitive tasks; and pragmatic study designs for interventional studies that control for other factors that may impact cognitive outcomes and use novel biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1245-1256
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • neurocognitive dysfunction
  • obstructive sleep apnea


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