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Untreated Sleep Apnea Could Cause Brain Damage in Children

New research suggests that children suffering from untreated obstructive sleep apnea show a significant reduction in gray matter of the brain. The study conducted by the University of Chicago Medical Center and published in the journal, Scientific Reports, conveys that "there is clear evidence of widespread neuronal damage or loss compared to the general population." [1] The findings of this recent study are especially troubling as it’s estimated that currently, three percent of children suffer from sleep apnea.

The University of Chicago Medical Center study analyzed 16 children with OSA and evaluated their sleep patterns overnight in its pediatric sleep laboratory. Children were administered neuro-cognitive testing and underwent brain scans with a non-invasive MRI. These results were compared with MRI images from nine healthy children of the same age, gender, ethnicity and weight, who did not suffer from sleep apnea.  

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