Theorizing that high levels of oxygen could reinvigorate dormant neurons, Efrati and his fellow researchers recruited post-stroke patients for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) — sessions in high pressure chambers that contain oxygen-rich air — which increases oxygen levels in the body tenfold.
Analysis of brain imaging showed significantly increased neuronal activity after a two-month period of HBOT treatment compared to control periods of non-treatment, reported Efrati. Patients experienced improvements such as a reversal of paralysis, increased sensation, and renewed use of language. These changes can make a world of difference in daily life, helping patients recover their independence and complete tasks such as bathing, cooking, climbing stairs, or reading a book.
According to Efrati, there are several degrees of brain injury. Neurons impacted by metabolic dysfunction have the energy to stay alive, but not enough to fire electric signals, he explains. HBOT aims to increase the supply of energy to these cells.
The brain consumes 20 percent of the body's oxygen, but that is only enough oxygen to operate five to ten percent of neurons at any one time. The regeneration process requires much more energy. The tenfold increase in oxygen levels during HBOT treatment supplies the necessary energy for rebuilding neuronal connections and stimulating inactive neurons to facilitate the healing process, explains Efrati.
For their study, the researchers sought post stroke patients whose condition was no longer improving. To assess the potential impact of HBOT treatment, the anatomical features and functionality of the brain were evaluated using a combination of CT scans to identify necrotic tissue, and SPECT scans to determine the metabolic activity level of the neurons surrounding damaged areas.
MEDICA.de; Source: Tel Aviv University's American Friends