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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 25, Number 4, 2016

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Sleeping Through the Snoring: Researchers ID Neurons That Rouse the Brain to Breathe

Discovery offers a target for interventions for sleep disorders including apnea, insight to SIDS

A common and potentially serious sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea affects at least one quarter of U.S. adults and is linked to increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) identified specific neural circuitry responsible for rousing the brain of mice in simulated apnea conditions. The findings could lead to potential new drug therapies to help patients with obstructive sleep apnea get more rest.

Often but not always marked by loud snoring, sleep apnea occurs when a sleeping person’s airway collapses and closes off breathing. Dipping oxygen (O2) levels and rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the blood alert the sleeping brain to the problem, rousing the sleeper just long enough to re-establish breathing.

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