HBOT – Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves supplying a body with 100% pure medical grade oxygen at 2 times the normal atmospheric pressure. At this rate, a body is supplied with 5 to 10 times more oxygen at higher pressures as a result of which more oxygen gets dissolved in the red blood cells and in plasma. The excess oxygen is supplied to every needy cell and tissue in the body that can promote optimal functioning and repair of cells, tissues etc.
Though there are only 13 FDA approved medical conditions where HBOT is recommended, there has been increasing evidence for the use of HBOT to treat various other conditions including Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), degenerative cognitive functioning of the brain etc.
In here, we will go through the benefits of using HBOT on those who had brain injuries, suffering from AD and in normal people.
Cognitive improvement following brain injuries
- People who had a brain stroke and suffered from reduced cognitive performance showed significant improvements in all memory measures after hyperbaric oxygen therapy. HBOT also helped in improving brain metabolism, specifically in the temporal areas. In fact, the supply of higher amounts of oxygen even at normal atmospheric pressures has shown a positive effect on working memory of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- After 40 HBOT sessions at 2 times atmospheric pressure, significant neurological and cognitive improvements were seen in people even at late chronic phase after brain stroke.
- HBOT has been suggested to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and neural apoptosis that helped in improving functional recovery of the brain after a stroke.
- In a lab experiment involving rats suffering from ischemic stroke, HBOT showed neurogenesis and mobilization of bone marrow stem cells to the ischemic area that helped in cell repair in the brain.
- It has been observed that HBOT elevates Cerebral Blood Flow (CBF) that helps in restoration of physical abilities and cognitive functions.
The improvement in cognitive functioning and executive functioning of brain, physical abilities, gait, sleep and quality of life in people has been observed and the positive effects continued to remain even after 3 months post completing the HBOT sessions.
Patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) have shown good recovery during rehabilitation phase and improved hippocampal cerebral blood flow after HBOTherapy. Growing evidence suggests that HBOT can induce neuroplasticity and improve cognitive function in patients suffering from chronic neurocognitive impairment due to Traumatic brain injury and anoxic brain damage (damage to brain tissues due to lack of supply of oxygen).
Cognitive improvement following HBOT in Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia patients
- Recent human trials have shown that HBOT can improve cognitive functioning of the brain in patients with mild cognitive impairment, AD, VD and improve brain metabolism.
- Patients with cerebrovascular disease have shown improvement in motor and cognitive performance in just one month of HBOTherapy. This is very promising because the findings suggest that even with severe cognitive deterioration in progressive neurodegenerative brain disorders, relatively short duration of HBOT sessions can improve conditions for a couple of months. (The short sessions have to resume after a 2 or 3 months gap). In case of people suffering from very severe cognitive deterioration, more number of HBOT sessions (up to 8 weeks) were needed to significantly reverse the symptoms.
- PET scan of the brain has shown improved brain metabolism after HBOT.
- 12 weeks of HBOT at 2 times the atmospheric pressure has shown improvement in Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) scores and elevated humanian levels in a large group of people suffering from Vascular Dementia. (Humanian is a unique human mitochondrion-derived peptide that has neuroprotective effects.
On the whole, HBOT has shown improvements in several aspects of brain activity including improvement in Cerebral Blood Flow, brain metabolism, brain microstructure leading to improvement in cognitive functions and physical functions, sleep, gait etc.
Cognitive improvement in healthy individuals
Along with testing HBOT effects on people with brain strokes and AD or VD, the effects on healthy individuals have also been studied and the results are equally encouraging and exciting for medical researchers.
- HBOT sessions on elderly people have shown good improvement in cognitive function (on those with cognitive defects).
- HBOTherapy on healthy young adults showed increased spatial working memory and memory quotient. The healthy individuals were asked to perform three different tasks related to brain motor, cognitive and cognitive-motor skills. It was observed that the brain’s performance while inside the HBOT chamber was significantly higher in performing all of the three tasks compared to being in a normal environment. This establishes the fact that the ability of (human) brain is limited with the supply of oxygen in the air we breathe.
- In other studies done on older and younger adults showed similar results which showed that HBOT improved learning curve, higher resilience to interference of episodic memory and induced cognitive enhancements.
- Older adults with memory loss showed improved cognitive performance following 60 daily HBOT sessions at 2 times the atmospheric pressure. It was also observed that fewer number of HBOT sessions weren’t of much help. This indicated at least 40 to 60 HBOT sessions were required at the rate of 5 a week at 2 to 3 times atmospheric pressure to see significant and long lasting effects on brain functioning.