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Keywords:

  • obstructive sleep apnea syndrome;
  • information processing speed;
  • continuous positive airway pressure

To provide a comprehensive review of studies on information processing speed in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) as compared to healthy controls and normative data, and to determine whether continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment improves information processing speed. A systematic review was performed on studies drawn from Medline and PsycINFO (January 1990–December 2011) and identified from lists of references in these studies. After inclusion criteria, 159 articles were left for abstract review, and after exclusion criteria 44 articles were fully reviewed. The number of patients in the studies reviewed ranged from 10 to 157 and the study samples consisted mainly of men. Half of the studies reported that patients with OSAS showed reduced information processing speed when compared to healthy controls. Reduced information processing speed was seen more often (75%) when compared to norm-referenced data. Psychomotor speed seemed to be particularly liable to change. CPAP treatment improved processing speed, but the improvement was marginal when compared to placebo or conservative treatment. Patients with OSAS are affected by reduced information processing speed, which may persist despite CPAP treatment. Information processing is usually assessed as part of other cognitive functioning, not as a cognitive domain per se. However, it is important to take account of information processing speed when assessing other aspects of cognitive functioning. This will make it possible to determine whether cognitive decline in patients with OSAS is based on lower-level or higher-level cognitive processes or both.