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Oxygen Therapy can Help Restore Brain Function in Stroke Victims

Update Date: Jan 24, 2013 11:12 AM EST

Stroke patients who have suffered significant damage to the brain can benefit from oxygen therapy,  according to a new research. The study found that people who underwent this therapy experienced tremendous improvement in their condition including reversal of paralysis, better speech and increased sensation.

Dr. Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine says that brain function can be restored in people, even years after a brain injury by subjecting the brain to high-oxygen conditions.

The study included 74 patients who were recruited for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) where they were subjected to oxygen-rich air in high pressure chambers. All the study participants had suffered from stroke and lost significant brain functions. These participants were divided into two groups; one received the oxygen therapy from the beginning while the other did not receive the therapy initially but only after a period of two months.

Efrati said that he found tremendous improvement in condition of people who received the treatment. Even those who had suffered a stroke 20 years back showed progress.

Brain cells that have suffered damage aren't all dead. Most of them have enough energy to stay alive, but can't fire signals to carry on a neurological function. The oxygen therapy provides energy to these cells and helps them recover, according to Efrati.

Some 20 percent of the oxygen in the body is taken up by the brain and this is just enough oxygen to keep 5 to 10 percent neurons working at a given time. In order to reenergize the neurons, researchers need to increase the amount of energy supplied to the brain. The oxygen therapy increases oxygen supply by about ten times and this helps the neurons start firing signals and restore the neurological circuit.

"It is now understood that many brain disorders are related to inefficient energy supply to the brain. HBOT treatment could right such metabolic abnormalities before the onset of full dementia, where there is still potential for recovery," said Dr. Efrati in a news release.

Researchers are now conducting similar experiments on people who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries. They add that the oxygen therapy can be used as an anti-ageing therapy and to restore cognitive function in early stages of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.        

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