Functional role of neural injury in obstructive sleep apnea

Julian P. Saboisky, Jane E. Butler, Simon C. Gandevia, Danny J. Eckert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


The causes of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are multifactorial. Neural injury affecting the upper airway muscles due to repetitive exposure to intermittent hypoxia and/or mechanical strain resulting from snoring and recurrent upper airway closure have been proposed to contribute to OSA disease progression. Multiple studies have demonstrated altered sensory and motor function in patients with OSA using a variety of neurophysiological and histological approaches. However, the extent to which the alterations contribute to impairments in upper airway muscle function, and thus OSA disease progression, remains uncertain. This brief review, primarily focused on data in humans, summarizes: (1) the evidence for upper airway sensorimotor injury in OSA and (2) current understanding of how these changes affect upper airway function and their potential to change OSA progression. Some unresolved questions including possible treatment targets are noted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number95
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberJUN 2012
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

'This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.'


  • upper airway muscles
  • snoring
  • electromyographic activity
  • Upper airway muscles
  • Upper airway reflexes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Neuropathy
  • Upper airway physiology
  • Myopathy


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