Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) restores cognitive function in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder
A double blind controlled trial of children aged 2-7 in the Autism Spectrum Disorder, has brought new hope for people with ASD. The 62 children involved in this trial underwent 40 sessions of Hyperbaric therapy, and it was found that “Children with autism who received hyperbaric treatment at 1.3 ATM and 24% oxygen for 40 hourly sessions had significant improvements in overall functioning, receptive language, social interaction, eye contact, and sensory/cognitive awareness compared to children who received slightly pressurized room air.”
The use of hyperbaric treatment involves inhaling up to 100% oxygen at a pressure greater than one atmosphere (atm) in a pressurized chamber. Most typical indications for hyperbaric treatment involve the use of hyperbaric pressures above 2.0 atm. Higher atmospheric pressures are generally required to treat conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning and to improve wound healing. However, improvements have been observed via treatments with 95–100% oxygen and hyperbaric pressures of 1.5–2.0 atm for some chronic neurological conditions, including autism.
What processes and areas of the brain are deregulated in a person diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder?
It is been shown in many studies that there is a link between encephalopathy and a later diagnosis of Autism.Encephalopathy is a disease in which the functioning of the brain is affected by some agent or condition such as viral infection or toxins in the blood.
The cause of encephalopathy was demonstrated in a recent research, in which brain tissues of 11 patients with autism, were analised. It was found that subjects had an active neuroinflammatory process in the cerebral cortex, white matter, and notably in cerebellum.
In another study, Twenty-three children with infantile autism, had their neuroimages analised in order to find wether there was relationship between regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) and symptom profiles. It was found that autistic subjects had a decreased regional blood flow, which confirmed the associations of impairments in communication, social interaction, abnormal responses to sensory stimuli, and the obsessive desire for sameness.
There is an interdependence between the innate immune system and hypoxic responses to infection and tissue damage . So, as encephalopathy takes place, the Hypoxia inducible factors (HIF) are expressed. HIF are protein complexes that plays an integral role in the body's response to low oxygen concentrations, or hypoxia.
How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy helps autistic patients?
1)It increases Oxygen to tissues through the blood supply
A recent article discussed that HBOT improves autistic symptoms by compensating for decreased blood flow by increasing the oxygen content of plasma and body tissues. Hence reducing hypoxia. HBOT has been reported to possess strong anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to improve immune function
In the Department of Neonatology, Bao'an Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital in China, Sixty neonates with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy were randomly administered with 1.4, 1.5 or 1.6 atmosphere absolute (ATA) of HBO, once daily for seven days.
The 1.6 ATA HBOT group showed:
1)Increased Superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that helps break down potentially harmful oxygen molecules in cells, which might prevent damage to tissues.
2)Decreased Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, an organic compound that occurs naturally and is a marker for oxidative stress.
3)Decreased Nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that plays a key role in the pathogenesis of inflammation
Therefore, as the brain is holistically repaired through a reduction of inflammatory markers, and oxidative stress, all the main biomarkers of ASD are observed to improve. This is because encephalopathy of the brain, causes a cascade of negative reactions in the various neuro- mechanisms, responsible for speech, sensory and visual processing as well as neuro - motor capabilities.