Podcast #17: Brain Damage And Sleep Apnea – Interview with Dr. Ronald Harper

In this podcast, I have a fascinating discussion with Dr. Ronald M. Harper, Professor of Neurobiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Harper shares some profound insights about why brain damage goes hand in hand with obstructive sleep apnea. In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • Why Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or OSA) can cause brain damage but how this brain damage can further perpetuate sleep apnea
  • Eye-opening insights about why OSA is so often associated with memory loss, brain fog, balance issues, hypertension, and even diabetes 
  • Besides traditional OSA treatment options, which simple exercise method can help reduce OSA severity.

Download MP3 file

Subscribe to Podcast

Show notes:

Brain Morphology Associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Brain Structural Changes in Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sex Differences in White Matter Alterations Accompanying Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Blood-Brain Barrier Leakiness in Obstructive Sleep Apnea 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Brain Structural Changes and Neurocognitive Function before and after Treatment

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 thoughts on “Podcast #17: Brain Damage And Sleep Apnea – Interview with Dr. Ronald Harper

  1. Excellent! It confirms my beliefs. I used to evaluate people in a number of areas regarding function. I know that the sleep apnea has affected my cognitive functions. Your webinars give me hope. I do exercises for the throat, tongue, started singing acapella. Trying to stop mouth breathing (guess I’ll have to tape my mouth). Can’t tolerate CPAP (tried for a dozen years). I do believe I can train/retrain to lessen the OSA. I am below low income yet believe I can help myself (and help health providers to help me). Thank you so much for the webinars which are concise yet understandable

  2. Dr. Park and Dr. Harper:

    How do you know which came first? Does OSA damage the cerebellum or does a damaged cerebellum (from some other cause) lead to OSA? (perhaps due to muscle or muscle control or nutrient defects)

    Thanks you so much – that was a tremendously illuminating interview!


  3. Scary and hopeful. Reminds me of Dr. Gominak’s ideas. If you can breath when awake, you should be able to breath when asleep.

  4. I would simply like to express a hearty bit of thanks to Dr. Ronald M. Harper for his many years of research. The research has been very useful by helping me to understand what happened to me and helping me to find my way back to better health. Thanks again.

  5. EXCELLENT interview– Thank you so much Dr Park and Dr Harper!
    I have listened twice so far, and am looking around for show notes which I can excerpt and send to my pulmonologist and neurologist. I will copy this link and send it to them in the meantime.
    It is so amazing to hear that there exists a concept of recovery from OSA…
    (which softens the horror of the extent of brain damage associated with OSA)
    To hear vitamins and minerals referred to by a MD in a serious manner
    is also amazing– as is the blood brain barrier being brought up…

    I am especially interested in the insular cortex and pain regulation…
    and retraining the upper airway muscles to retrain the cerebellum.
    So– I will finally get a digeridoo and know it can make a difference on two levels.
    Dr Harper is a 2 hr drive from me– I hope to get in to have my brain imaged–
    I was undiagnosed for 14 years prior to getting on a BiPAP– its been 5 years now on one– and the cognitive issues have me at full attention to this podcast.
    THANKS again Dr Parker– you are a Saint!

  6. In response to Ian on Feb 2- an excellent question, but not a sole answer. In some cases, such as when injury occurs at birth to the cerebellum or to nearby fibers projecting to the cerebellum (unfortunately, a too-common occurrence), the loss of coordination between upper airway muscles and the diaphragm (job of the cerebellum!) can lead to disordered breathing. Similarly, damage to the cerebellum via tumors or stroke can result in impaired breathing. However, a more-common circumstance may result from momentary hypoxic injury as a consequence of stopped or impaired breathing, which super-excites what are known as climbing fibers to cerebellar Purkinje neurons; these fibers are very sensitive to hypoxia, and when too-excited, can kill Purkinje neurons. That process takes only a couple of hours in newborn animals (why periodic breathing in human neonates should be much more a concern than it is currently), and one can easily see why short-term exposure to disordered breathing can induce significant injury (think, listening to extreme snoring after returning from a drunken party). So the answer really is- in some cases cerebellar injury first, but that injury can be induced by appallingly short periods of impaired breathing.