Brain changes in children with obstructive sleep apnoea in children

Lead researcher

Prof Rosemary Horne

Main finding

In children, obstructive sleep apnoea is generally due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids and the main treatment is adenotonsillectomy. Children with obstructive sleep apnoea exhibit elevated blood pressure, poor behaviour and reduced concentration and learning. Children underwent MRI scans and we showed that there were alterations in the brain in areas associated with these processes. Most of the changes were acute which means they may be able to be normalised with treatment to improve obstructive sleep apnoea.


The Ritchie Centre

Research group

Infant and Child Health


Dr Bhaswati Roy, Dr Lisa M Walter, Dr Sarah N Biggs, Ms Knarik Tamanyan, MrAidan Weichard, A/Prof Gillian M Nixon, A/Prof Margot J Davey, Prof Michael Ditchfield, Prof Ronald M Harper, Dr Rajesh Kumar

Journal and article title

Most surprising

This is the first time that the adverse effects of obstructive sleep apnoea have been related to changes in the brain in children.

Future implications

Currently it is not clear what severity of treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea requires surgical intervention in children. Our findings, and the observation of changes in the brains of these young children, will provide evidence to support early treatment. However, more studies are required to identify if treatment will resolve these brain changes.

Disease/health impact

Blood pressure, behaviour, neurocognition

Professor Rosemary Horne, Research group head for Infant and Child Health at Hudson Institute