NeuroMolecular Medicine

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 168–179 | Cite as

Neurobiology and Neuropathophysiology of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • Yanpeng Li
  • Sigrid C. VeaseyEmail author
Review Paper


Significant advancements have been made over the past three decades to better understand the disease entity of obstructive sleep apnea and the mechanisms by which this prevalent disorder imparts injury. Once considered a disorder of reversible sleepiness and insignificant arterial oxygen desaturations because of their intermittency, obstructive sleep apnea is now considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and an important contributor to neurocognitive impairment and neural injury as well as metabolic dysfunction. The rapidly fluctuating oxygen patterns are now believed to be central to oxidative injury in the brain and peripheral organs. Recent studies in both humans with sleep apnea and animal models of the disorder have increased our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying both the disorder and its sequelae, providing great insight into the significance of the disorder and bringing us closer to finding therapies to prevent or reduce both obstructive sleep apnea and it morbidities.


Obstructive sleep apnea Genioglossus Upper airway muscles Continuous positive airway pressure Motoneurons Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-oxidase Oxidative stress Cerebrovascular disease Myocardial infarction Hypertension Cognitive impairment Hypersomnolence 



Sources of funding: NIH HLBI: HL079555, HL096037, HL07713.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyShanghai Changzheng Hospital, the Affiliated Hospital to the Second Military Medical UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of MedicineCenter for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA

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