The Association of Upper Airway Anatomy with Brain Structure: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Robin M. Nance, Alison E. Fohner, Robyn L. McClelland, Susan Redline, R. Nick Bryan, Lisa Desiderio, Mohamad Habes, Wt Longstreth, Richard J. Schwab, Andrew S. Wiemken, Susan R. Heckbert

Producción científica: Articlerevisión exhaustiva


Sleep apnea, affecting an estimated 1 in 4 American adults, has been reported to be associated with both brain structural abnormality and impaired cognitive function. Obstructive sleep apnea is known to be affected by upper airway anatomy. To better understand the contribution of upper airway anatomy to pathways linking sleep apnea with impaired cognitive function, we investigated the association of upper airway anatomy with structural brain abnormalities. Based in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a longitudinal cohort study of community-dwelling adults, a comprehensive sleep study and an MRI of the upper airway and brain were performed on 578 participants. Machine learning models were used to select from 74 upper airway measures those measures most associated with selected regional brain volumes and white matter hyperintensity volume. Linear regression assessed associations between the selected upper airway measures, sleep measures, and brain structure. Maxillary divergence was positively associated with hippocampus volume, and mandible length was negatively associated with total white and gray matter volume. Both coefficients were small (coefficients per standard deviation 0.063 mL, p = 0.04, and − 7.0 mL, p < 0.001 respectively), and not affected by adjustment for sleep study measures. Self-reported snoring >2 times per week was associated with larger hippocampus volume (coefficient 0.164 mL, p = 0.007), and higher percentage of time in the N3 sleep stage was associated with larger total white and gray matter volume (4.8 mL, p = 0.004). Despite associations of two upper airway anatomy measures with brain volume, the evidence did not suggest that these upper airway and brain structure associations were acting primarily through the pathway of sleep disturbance.

Idioma originalEnglish (US)
PublicaciónBrain Imaging and Behavior
EstadoAccepted/In press - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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