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Iowa Gambling Task Performance in Overweight Children and Adolescents at Risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • Kelly A. McNally (a1), Paula K. Shear (a2), Sarah Tlustos (a3), Raouf. S. Amin (a4) (a5) and Dean W. Beebe (a5) (a6)...

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a nocturnal respiratory disorder associated with cognitive and behavioral sequelae, including impairments in executive functioning (EF). Previous literature has focused on “cool” EF, meaning abilities such as working memory and planning that do not involve affective control requirements. Little is known about the impact OSA may have on “hot” EF that involves regulation of affect and risk-related decision-making, and that may be particularly salient during adolescence, when these skills are rapidly developing. This study examined performance on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), a task believed to assess aspects of “hot” EF, in overweight adolescents at risk for OSA. Consistent with hypotheses, individuals without OSA made more beneficial decisions on the IGT over time, but participants with OSA did not benefit from feedback and continued to make choices associated with higher initial rewards, but greater long-term losses. The relationship between developmental level and IGT performance was moderated by OSA status. Individuals with OSA did not demonstrate the expected developmental gains in performance during the IGT. This finding suggests that OSA may impact the development of critical aspects of EF, or at least the expression of these skills during the developmentally important period of adolescence. (JINS, 2012, 18, 481–489)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Kelly McNally, Department of Psychology, Nationwide Children's Hospital, 700 Children's Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43205. E-mail:
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