A new research says structural abnormalities in some regions in the brain could be the reason why obstructive sleep apnea or OSA occurs in patients but this could be treated.

"OSA patients demonstrate several neuropsychological impairments, but current knowledge of the brain structures affected by OSA is limited. This study provides the first evidence that structural brain abnormalities exist in regions susceptible to hypoxemia, and they can change with treatment," said Vincenza Castronovo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at the Sleep Disorders Center, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University and San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy.

Researchers studied 17 individuals with severe OSA and 15 who didn't have the condition in the paper published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. In the study, the researchers found that specific brain functions were affected than others, including those functions such as problem-solving and abstract reasoning. The patients with OSA had higher sleepiness scores and demonstrated impairments in memory, attention, executive functions and constructional abilities. Interestingly, the damages were reversed with continuous positive airway pressure treatment.

"We found reduced GM in the OSA group when compared to the non-OSA group in several key regions of the brain," said Dr. Castronovo. "Of particular note were the deficits in the left parahippocampal gyrus and in the left posterior-parietal cortex. We found that these two regions have significant bearing on abstract reasoning and executive function. Deficits in the left posterior-parietal cortex were also shown to be associated with daytime sleepiness."