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.
Many baby boomers believe they will never have to slow down. Yet our research shows that they are worried about their brain health. The 50s and 60s are when something as seemingly innocuous as a sleep disorder, particularly obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) can lay the foundations for poor health for the rest of their lives. Obstructive sleep apnoea is a […]