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Israeli scientists' new method improves brain function in elderly

The cognitive function of aging adults can be increased using a broad and commonly used treatment in the medical field called the hyperbaric oxygen therapy protocol (HOTP), according to an unprecedented joint study done by several Israeli medical institutions.

"More than half of community-dwelling individuals sixty years and older express concern about declining cognitive abilities," states the study which aimed to evaluate the HBOT effect on cognitive functions in healthy aging adults.The study found an improvement in the cognitive function in areas including attention, information processing speed, executive function, in addition to the global cognitive function, all of which typically decline with age.

A significant correlation between the cognitive changes and improved cerebral blood flow in specific brain locations was found. "Age-related cognitive and functional decline has become a significant 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,” said Prof. Efrati, Head of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research, one of the institutions involved in the study.

“In our study, for the first time in humans, we have found an effective and safe medical intervention that can address this unwanted consequence of our age-related deterioration. ”Published on July 15, the study included 63 healthy adults who placed into two groups, one of which underwent the hyperbaric oxygen therapy protocol for a period of three months, while the other group was used as a control.

In the end, general cognitive function was measured using computerized cognitive assessments given both before and after the study. Additionally, cerebral blood flow (CBF) was evaluated by a novel magnetic resonance imaging technique for brain perfusion. During HBOT, the patient breathes 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.The study was designed based on a unique protocol developed at the Sagol Center over the past ten years.“Over years of research, we have developed an advanced understanding of HBOT’s ability to restore brain function.

In the past, we have 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,” explained Dr. Amir Hadanny, also from the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research. “This landmark research could have a far-reaching impact on the way we view the aging process and the ability to treat its symptoms," he added.

Other contributors to the study included, Sackler School of Medicine of Tel-Aviv University, The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences of Bar Ilan University, the Radiology Department of Shamir Medical Center, Research and Development Unit of Shamir Medical Center, and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University.

Celia Jean