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“Local Sleep” in the Awake Brain: An Underlying Cause of Neurobehavioural Deficits in Obstructive Sleep Apnea?


Snorers who are easily distracted and struggle to focus on the job might have a new culprit to blame: Napping neurons.

We are investigating why so many of the nation’s snorers suffer from neurobehavioral problems like poor concentration, increasing their risk of accidents on the road, at home and in the workplace.


Dr Angela D’Rozario.

Research location

Science - Generic

Program type



The project will study the brains of people with the common sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to find out if a phenomenon called ‘local sleep’ could be damaging their concentration. We suspect that the concentration lapses are caused by tightly-grouped populations of ‘tired’ brain cells that fall asleep in the awake brain.

One in ten middle-aged Australians have OSA, a disorder that disrupts breathing and interferes with sound sleep. One in five sufferers spend their day feeling sleepy, inattentive and unable to concentrate. The reasons behind this grogginess are poorly understood, and there is no way to determine which OSA patients are most at risk of it. Our sleep neurobiology team believes the 'local' sleep-like intrusions during wakefulness may hold the key.

To investigate, we will recruit volunteers with and without OSA to study the relationship between sleep quality, daytime brain behavior and grogginess symptoms. Recruits will undergo 256-channel high-density EEG and driving simulation tests.

Patients with moderate to severe OSA will be tested on the gold-standard OSA treatment, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), or placebo version, to reveal how they respond and what effect this has on local sleep. We believe that by treating the OSA we’ll stop these napping neurons in their tracks and improve driving ability,

This NHMRC-funded study will greatly enhance our understanding of mechanisms underpinning performance deficits in OSA. It will also guides future research into alternative therapies that protect the brain from neural injury which could reduce the heightened risk for dementia in the many Australians with OSA.

Additional information

This data collection for this study will be conducted at the Centre for Sleep and Chronobiology, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Glebe.

Top-up scholarships may be available for exceptional students through the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence to Optimise Sleep in Brain Ageing and Neurodegeneration (CogSleep CRE).

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:
- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to work evenings and/or early mornings in the sleep lab.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2771

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