Neuroplasticity provides us with a brain that can adapt not only to changes inflicted by damage, but more importantly, allows adaptation to any and all experiences and changes we may encounter.
In the first few years of life, the brain is growing rapidly. The average adult brain grows slower because as we process new experiences, some connections are strengthened while others are merely replaced by the process known as synaptic pruning. By developing new connections and pruning less important ones, or synapses we don’t need at all, the brain is able to change either size or shape, and maybe both.
Hyperbaric oxidative treatments bring new hopes of brain repair from strokes, traumatic brain injuries and even metabolic disorders. New Hopes
New results by a team headed by Dr. Shai Efrati of Asaf Harofeh Medical Center and Tel Aviv University suggest that hyperbaric oxidative treatment (HBOT) should be employed to repair the brain from strokes and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
The results imply that in the future, the HBOT might also be exploited to protect the brain from dementia and Alzheimer (for reasons explained further below). The team illustrated and analyzed the dramatic improvements in brain function and quality of life following two months of HBOT treatment, in Seventy-four participants, 6-36 months after the stroke, whose condition was no longer improving prior to the treatment. Yet, the neurological functions and life quality of almost all the patients (over 95%) were significantly improved after the HBOT sessions. Analyses of brain imaging (by SPECT scans) showed that the treatment led to an increase in brain activity in brain locations with neurons that stayed alive but did not have sufficient energy (blood supply) to function (generate firing of signals).
Perhaps the most researched neurological condition in hyperbaric medicine is TBI and that can occur at any age and can be any severity i.e. from a slight cerebral concussion to severe neurological deficits.
Following trauma, damages cells in the brain become dysfunctional because of swelling causing ischemia to the area as well as cell membrane disturbances and ion channel abnormalities. HBOT has been shown to provide an increase in oxygen levels to these vulnerable cells, decrease swelling and help promote angiogenesis (new vessel formation) in the later stages.
The most common type of stroke suffered by the population is ischemic stroke. An area of tissue in the center of the infarction typically becomes necrotic and does not recover. However the area around this zone is inhabited by neurons and glial cells that become dysfunctional “idling cells”. These cells have the potential to recover over time, with the help of HBOT more of these cells can be saved and a greater recovery can be experienced.
Efrati et. al in his study published in January 2013 demonstrated that most patients from 6 months – 3 years post stroke are the best candidates for the treatment and show marked improvement in quality of life and an increase in ADL scores.
There are many degenerative neurological conditions to which medical science does not have sufficient treatment modalities. Among them are Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and others which have shown some promising results with intermittent hyperbaric treatment. The main goal of treatment in these cases is to elicit a neuro-protective effect by inhibiting the apoptotic pathways in the brain. HBOT stimulates the expression of Bcl-2 proteins and other similar neuro-protective signal molecules to effectively slow the rate of degeneration and contribute to preserving quality of life and maintain or improve certain functions over time.