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Reviews in the Neurosciences

Editor-in-Chief: Huston, Joseph P.

Editorial Board: Topic, Bianca / Adeli, Hojjat / Buzsaki, Gyorgy / Crawley, Jacqueline / Crow, Tim / Gold, Paul / Holsboer, Florian / Korth, Carsten / Li, Jay-Shake / Lubec, Gert / McEwen, Bruce / Pan, Weihong / Pletnikov, Mikhail / Robbins, Trevor / Schnitzler, Alfons / Stevens, Charles / Steward, Oswald / Trojanowski, John

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Volume 23, Issue 3


Cognitive evoked potentials in obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: a review of the literature

Alberto Raggi
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Neurology, Oasi Institute for Research on Mental Retardation and Brain Aging (IRCCS), Troina, Italy
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  • Other articles by this author:
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/ Raffaele Ferri
  • Department of Neurology, Oasi Institute for Research on Mental Retardation and Brain Aging (IRCCS), Troina, Italy
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2012-02-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2012-0027


Cognitive functions may be altered in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) and it has been proposed that vigilance and attention changes play a fundamental role in all aspects of cognitive deficits noted in this disease. The use of event-related potentials (ERPs) is a high-time resolution technique that can be used to explore the presence of cognitive dysfunction. We review 23 empirical articles on ERPs in OSAS in order to contribute to the clarification of the pattern of cognitive deficits that are specific to this disease and to see whether there might be an improvement of abnormal psychophysiological findings with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. We conclude that ERP studies have contributed to demonstrating changes in cognitive attentive processing in OSAS, mainly in association with altered functioning of the prefrontal cortex, and that CPAP treatment may improve vigilance and attention and generally improve cerebral information processing in these patients. The remaining deficits during sufficient CPAP therapy may, however, reflect irreversible hypoxic cerebral damage.

Keywords: attention; cognitive deficit; continuous positive airway pressure treatment; event-related potentials; information processing; obstructive sleep apnea syndrome

About the article

Alberto Raggi

Born in Romagna, Italy, Alberto Raggi studied Medicine at the University of Bologna and graduated “cum Laude” (1994). He served his residency in Psychiatry at the University of Modena (1994–1998) and in Neurology at the University of Florence (1998–2003). He has worked at the Division of Neurology of the Hospital of Faenza (2003–2004), at the Division of Neurology of the Hospital of Piacenza (2004–2005 and 2007–2008), at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences of the San Raffaele Turro Hospital in Milan – Vita Salute San Raffaele University (2005–2007). He has taught Neurophysiology in the Faculty of Medicine of the Milano Bicocca University from 2006 to 2008 and in 2010. He works at the Department of Neurology of the Oasi Institute for Research on Mental Retardation and Brain Aging in Troina since 2009. His main research focus is in behavioural neurology.

Raffaele Ferri

Dr. Raffaele Ferri received his MD in 1981 from the Catholic University of Rome (Italy) where he also received the specialization in Neurology in 1985. Dr. Ferri is chief of the Sleep Research Centre and chairs the Department of Brain Aging, Neurology I.C., of the Oasi Institute for Research on Mental Retardation and Brain Aging in Troina (Italy), Dr. Ferri has been involved in clinical research and care for 30 years, first at the Catholic University in Rome and then at the Oasi Institute. Dr. Ferri has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine (AISM) and also a member of the didactic committee of the AISM, involved in the organization of the annual education course in Sleep Medicine of this Association; for the same organization, Dr. Ferri manages its internet web site. Currently, he is the Secretary of the European Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group and member-at-large of the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group. Dr. Ferri has been, for years, an active member of the Italian Society of Psychophysiology being a member of its Board of Directors for more than 10 years and its representative for the Federation of the European Psychophysiology Societies. Dr. Ferri has also been the Secretary of the Federation of the European Psychophysiology Societies. Dr. Ferri has been involved in the scientific study of the neurophysiological aspects of Alzheimer disease and other dementias and is the Head of a Department specifically devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. For this reason, he has collaborated or led different research activities in this field. His specific areas of interest cover also the description, analysis and understanding of various aspects of human normal and pathological sleep neurophysiology. Dr. Ferri is deeply involved in the study of sleep neurophysiology of restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, and REM sleep behavior disorder. He has also a special interest in the analysis of pediatric sleep, with particular attention to sleep in mentally retarded subjects. Dr. Ferri has published approximately 250 papers in international peer-reviewed scientific journals, in addition to book chapters and abstracts.

Corresponding author

Received: 2011-11-25

Accepted: 2012-01-13

Published Online: 2012-02-28

Published in Print: 2012-06-01

Citation Information: , Volume 23, Issue 3, Pages 311–323, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2012-0027.

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