Neurotoxicity Research

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 216–243

Death by a Thousand Cuts in Alzheimer’s Disease: Hypoxia—The Prodrome

Review Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12640-013-9379-2

Cite this article as:
Daulatzai, M.A. Neurotox Res (2013) 24: 216. doi:10.1007/s12640-013-9379-2


A wide range of clinical consequences may be associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) including systemic hypertension, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary hypertension, congestive heart failure, cerebrovascular disease, glucose intolerance, impotence, gastroesophageal reflux, and obesity, to name a few. Despite this, 82 % of men and 93 % of women with OSA remain undiagnosed. OSA affects many body systems, and induces major alterations in metabolic, autonomic, and cerebral functions. Typically, OSA is characterized by recurrent chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH), hypercapnia, hypoventilation, sleep fragmentation, peripheral and central inflammation, cerebral hypoperfusion, and cerebral glucose hypometabolism. Upregulation of oxidative stress in OSA plays an important pathogenic role in the milieu of hypoxia-induced cerebral and cardiovascular dysfunctions. Strong evidence underscores that cerebral amyloidogenesis and tau phosphorylation—two cardinal features of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), are triggered by hypoxia. Mice subjected to hypoxic conditions unambiguously demonstrated upregulation in cerebral amyloid plaque formation and tau phosphorylation, as well as memory deficit. Hypoxia triggers neuronal degeneration and axonal dysfunction in both cortex and brainstem. Consequently, neurocognitive impairment in apneic/hypoxic patients is attributable to a complex interplay between CIH and stimulation of several pathological trajectories. The framework presented here helps delineate the emergence and progression of cognitive decline, and may yield insight into AD neuropathogenesis. The global impact of CIH should provide a strong rationale for treating OSA and snoring clinically, in order to ameliorate neurocognitive impairment in aged/AD patients.


Sleep apneaChronic intermittent hypoxiaHypertensionHypoperfusionOxidative stressExcitotoxicityNeuronal degeneration

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sleep Disorders Group, EEE Department, Melbourne School of EngineeringThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia