In a new study, researchers demonstrated for the first time that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can strongly enhance the cognitive performance of healthy older adults.
The main areas of improvement were attention, information processing speed, and executive function, in addition to the global cognitive function, all of which typically decline with age.
Moreover, there was a strong link between cognitive changes and improved cerebral blood flow in specific brain locations.
The research was conducted by a team at Tel Aviv University.
The age-related cognitive and functional decline has become a big concern in the Western world.
Major research efforts around the world are focused on improving the cognitive performance of the so-called ‘normal’ aging population.
Previously, the team had demonstrated HBOT’s potential to improve/treat brain injuries such as stroke, traumatic brain injury and anoxic brain injury (due to sustained lack of oxygen supply) by increasing brain blood flow and metabolism.
During HBOT, the patient breaths in pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber where the air pressure is increased to twice that of normal air. This process increases oxygen solubility in the blood that travels throughout the body.
The added oxygen stimulates the release of growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.
HBOT has been applied worldwide mostly to treat chronic non-healing wounds.
In the study, they designed the study based on a unique HBOT protocol developed at the Sagol Center over the past 10 years.
The study included 63 healthy adults (older than 64) who underwent either HBOT or a control period for three months.
They found that HBOT induced a big increase in brain blood flow, which correlated with cognitive improvement, confirming our theory.
This means HBOT is an effective and safe medical intervention that can help reduce age-related deterioration.
The team says the similar beneficial effect of HBOT can be induced in other organs of the aging body. These will be tested in the team’s upcoming research.
One author of the study is Professor Shai Efrati, Head of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research.
The study is published in Aging.
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