Sleep apnoea

EXTRA INFORMATION

Improving treatments for obstructive sleep apnoea

WHAT WE KNOW

About our research

The Bilston Group is using MRI to measure the stiffness of the upper airway muscles and how they move during normal breathing, so we can understand what predisposes them to collapse. In conjunction with the Gandevia Group, we are also measuring the electrical signals from the brain to the major muscle in the upper airway, the genioglossus, using electromyography. This will help us understand what signals the brain is sending to cause the muscle to contract with breathing to keep the upper airway open.

So far we have observed the characteristics of the tongue and the motion of the genioglossus in people with obstructive sleep apnoea compared with healthy controls. We have found that the motion is significantly different from healthy subjects, and also varies with the severity of the disease. As the disease develops, tongue motion increases, but is not well coordinated, so that instead of opening the airway, contraction can widen one region and narrow another. In the most severe cases, motion appears to reduce or cease, so that the genioglossus does not dilate the airway during each breath.

We are now in a unique position to visualise the neuro-mechanical coupling (how the brain communicates via the electrical signals with muscles) in the upper airway. This will provide critical information about how the upper airway works normally and how its function is impaired in obstructive sleep apnoea.

In the longer term we will apply this knowledge to assessment of the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea and to explore further how the upper airway behaves in different conditions.

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The scourge of dementia runs deep in Lorna Clement's family. Of the eleven children her dear parents raised, four live (or have passed away) with complications of the disease. Her mother also died of Alzheimer's disease, bringing the family total to five. This is the mystery of dementia - One family, with two very different ageing outcomes. You will have read that lifestyle is an important factor in reducing the risk of dementia. We also know diet is a key factor, and an aspect that Dr Ruth Peter's is exploring at NeuRA. Along with leading teams delivering high profile evidence synthesis work in the area of dementia risk reduction, Dr Peters has a particular interest in hypertension (that is, high blood pressure) and in the treatment of hypertension in older adults. “We have known for a while that treating high blood pressure reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but it is becoming clearer that controlling blood pressure may also help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Now we need to know what the best blood pressure is to protect brain health.” You are invited to read more about Lorna's story and Dr Peter's work, by clicking 'Read the full story' below. Please support dementia research at NeuRA Will you consider a gift today to help Dr Peter's unlock the secrets of healthy ageing and reduce the risk of dementia? Research into ageing and dementia at NeuRA will arm doctors and other medical professionals with the tools they need to help prevent dementia in our communities. Thank you for your support.
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