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Pressure chamber treatment corrects brain injuries following head injuries

This is what a study at Tel Aviv University and Assaf Harofeh Hospital shows: the most common damage after a brain injury is cognitive damage. Many of the participants in the study regained the ability to remember, concentrate and process information

Pressure chamber at Assaf Harofeh Hospital. Photo: Tel Aviv University
Pressure chamber at Assaf Harofeh Hospital. Photo: Tel Aviv University

Brain injuries as a result of head injuries, strokes and diseases cause severe disabilities - physical, psychological and cognitive. Until today, the treatment of these injuries was mainly rehabilitative, and its results were accordingly limited. A new study from the Segol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University and the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center offers new hope: exposure to an oxygen-rich environment significantly improves the condition of patients - even years after the injury.

The results of the new study were published last Friday (November 15.11.13, XNUMX) in the journal PLOS ONE. The state of Texas is already considering funding the innovative treatment for its citizens affected by head injuries, as well as for its soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorders.

"The idea that brain damage can be repaired through pressure chamber treatment was born as early as the 90s," says Prof. Eshel Ben-Yaakov from the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Segol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University, "but the approach was not thoroughly tested at the time, because it contradicted the The prevailing view is that neural networks in the brain may regenerate and change only in childhood, or within a limited window of time after an injury."

About 60 patients with various degrees of brain damage, whose condition has already stopped improving and is considered chronic, participated in the new study. The participants were exposed to the special conditions that prevail in a pressure chamber of oxygen-enriched air, and the researchers monitored their brain function with the help of advanced imaging methods. The results are very promising: it turns out that oxygen in high concentration can stimulate dormant nerve cells, restore neural networks, and improve the patients' brain function - even many years after the injury.

Improvement in 20-year-old head injuries

The innovative treatment restored many different functions to the brain victims who participated in the study. After years of disability and severe dependence on others. The common damage after a traumatic brain injury is mainly cognitive, and many of the participants in the study regained the ability to remember, concentrate, understand and process information, read and orient themselves in space. "In the study, we focused on people who were injured for one to six years, but we have already seen a significant improvement even in injuries from 20 years ago," says Dr. Efrati, a researcher from the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and director of the Hyperbaric Medicine Institute at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center. "The results in the field are very clear, and they also amaze us, as therapists and researchers."

The key to the success of the treatment in the pressure chamber lies, according to the researchers, in the high concentration of oxygen that reaches the brain tissues. "In the damaged brain, there are many nerve cells that are still alive, yet they do not receive enough energy to wake up and return to function," explains Dr. Efrati. "Due to its importance, the brain receives a relatively high rate of oxygen, about 20% of all the oxygen that enters our body, but it turns out that this energy is mainly used for the active areas, and not for damaged and dormant places. So the oxygen supply to the brain under normal conditions is not capable of fueling repair and healing processes - such as building new blood vessels, renewing connections between nerve cells, awakening dormant nerve cells - processes that require a particularly large amount of energy. In the pressure chamber, on the other hand, there is a very high concentration of oxygen, up to 10 times the concentration in the normal air we breathe. Therefore, the brain can allocate the energy needed to repair damage in the affected areas, hence the significant improvement in the patients' functioning."

The impressive success of the research arouses high hopes in the researchers. "We believe that pressure chamber therapy has great potential as a therapeutic tool for a wide variety of diseases and injuries related to the brain," concludes Prof. Ben-Yaakov. "We understand today that many brain disorders are related to issues of energy management in the brain. Such a problem can arise, for example, in old age, with the decrease in the efficiency of blood flow to and within the brain. Therefore, it is quite possible that the new treatment could help, among other things, in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's. And who knows, maybe in the future we will even be able to give the brain 'anti-aging' treatments, which will strengthen it and preserve its function until our last day."

For the article published in Plos One :

2 תגובות

  1. I am 48 years old and have stuttered probably all my life.
    Can such a trip be relevant for me??

  2. Peace,
    Can I sign up for treatment? I am 60 years old and I am starting to have weakness in memory and concentration



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