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AAN: Sleep Apnea Tied to Higher Cortical Tau Levels in Seniors

Last Updated: March 04, 2019.

Older adults who are witnessed to have sleep apnea have increased accumulations of tau in the entorhinal cortex, according to a study scheduled for presentation at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, to be held from May 4 to 10 in Philadelphia.

MONDAY, March 4, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults who are witnessed to have sleep apnea have increased accumulations of tau in the entorhinal cortex (ERC), according to a study scheduled for presentation at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, to be held from May 4 to 10 in Philadelphia.

Diego Carvalho, M.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues identified 288 participants aged ≥65 years who did not have cognitive impairment and performed tau-positron emission tomography (PET) scans and amyloid PET scans. Participants' bed partners completed a questionnaire assessing whether they had witnessed apneas during sleep. The authors examined the association between ERC tau and witness apneas while controlling for potentially confounding variables.

The researchers found that 43 participants (15 percent) had witnessed apneas during sleep. There was a significant association for witnessed apneas with tau in the ERC. After controlling for multiple confounders, the model estimated a 0.049 elevation in the ERC tau standardized uptake value ratio.

"Our research results raise the possibility that sleep apnea affects tau accumulation," Carvalho said in a statement. "But it's also possible that higher levels of tau in other regions may predispose a person to sleep apnea, so longer studies are now needed to solve this chicken and egg problem."

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