3 Surprising Ways Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Helps Brain Health
Big wave surfer Shawn Dollar broke his neck while surfing in 2015, and after his neck brace came off a long three months later, everybody thought he was all better. Although his physical wounds had healed, his brain hadn’t, and he suffered from feelings of anxiety and depression, couldn’t do basic math, and often felt confused. “Something had to change, waiting for my brain to heal was taking too long,” Shawn writes on his website. “I desperately needed help. I needed a shortcut to healing.”
Shawn found that help when he was introduced to Amen Clinics, where he underwent brain imaging tests called SPECT that measure blood flow and activity in the brain. His MRIs had shown no structural damage to his brain, but these scans told a different story—they revealed damage from repeated concussions due to all the big wave wipeouts he’d experienced as a pro surfer. “Everyone else to this point said I was fine,” he says. “But I now had clear medical proof to support what I was feeling.”
Along with other treatments, Shawn underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to promote healing. “I felt significantly better after the first HBOT treatment,” he said. “I could think more clearly, I was faster mentally and just felt better overall. I could literally feel my brain working better. I can’t stress enough how much HBOT can quickly and safely heal a concussion or TBI.” Shawn continued his treatment and today, he is happier and closer than he has ever been with his family.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?
HBOT is a noninvasive treatment that involves breathing concentrated oxygen in a special pressurized chamber to promote healing and reduce inflammation. Better known for helping with wound healing and decompression sickness, HBOT can also help with brain health in the following ways.
HBOT enhances blood flow to the brain.
Before-and-after brain SPECT imaging studies of people who have undergone HBOT show remarkable improvement in blood flow to the brain. Adequate blood flow in the brain is vital for mental health. SPECT scans that show low blood flow have been associated with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, suicide, substance abuse, and more. Low blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
HBOT promotes healing after traumatic brain injuries.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) increase the risk of anxiety, panic attacks, psychosis, PTSD, ADHD, suicide, and more. Treating the underlying TBI with concentrated oxygen can promote healing, according to research. A 2011 brain imaging study looked at 16 soldiers suffering from PTSD following a TBI. They underwent brain imaging and neuropsychological testing before and after 40 sessions of HBOT. After treatment, they demonstrated significant improvement in impulsivity, mood, anxiety, quality of life scores, and more. Their SPECT brain scans showed remarkable overall improvement in blood flow.
HBOT improves brain metabolism in Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2019, researchers reported the first brain imaging study to document improvements in brain metabolism in a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. The study was performed on a 58-year-old woman who had been experiencing cognitive decline for 5 years. After 40 sessions of HBOT, she reported improved memory and concentration, decreased disorientation, less frustration, and her anxiety was gone. The brain scans showed 6.5-38% improvement in overall brain metabolism, prompting the researchers to suggest HBOT could be a potential therapy for Alzheimer’s patients.
At Amen Clinics, 40 percent of our patients have had TBIs, including mild ones where you don’t pass out, and HBOT is one of the treatments that can help. Many of our patients, including surfer Shawn Dollar, at Amen Clinics who have undergone HBOT, have experienced improvement in cerebral blood flow. Benefits they have reported include reduced headaches, depression, and irritability, as well as improved sleep, cognition, mood, and memory.
If you would like more information on this safe, noninvasive treatment, call 888-288-9834 or make an appointment online.