OXYGEN therapy can significantly reduce post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a world-first Israeli study of Israel Defense Force veterans, in which half of the subjects made such good progress that they didn’t were no longer considered to have PTSD.
Research led by Tel Aviv University, based on the use of hyperbaric oxygen chambers by 18 IDF veterans suffering from post-trauma, has been published in the peer-reviewed journal PlosOne.
Hyperbaric oxygen is not currently used for any significant treatment for PTSD, and the scientists who conducted the study say it could open up a new avenue to help people struggling with the disorder.
“We started this research to treat PTSD in a way that seeks to affect actual physical changes in the brain,” said Dr. Keren Doenyas-Barak, a member of the team behind the study. The Times of Israel.
“This approach does not rely on psychological tools. It’s biological, not psychological, so it represents something new.
The therapy is thought to work by increasing plasticity in the brain, which allows wounds in brain tissue to heal.
PTSD is triggered by the experience of an event so traumatic that it cannot be fully processed, leaving parts of the brain in a state of hyper-arousal and impairing its elasticity.
“Today, we understand that treatment-resistant PTSD is caused by biological injury to brain tissue, which hampers attempts at psychological and psychiatric treatments,” said Professor Shai Efrati, who led the research.
He said oxygen therapy “induces stem cell reactivation and proliferation, along with the generation of new blood vessels and increased brain activity, ultimately restoring the functionality of injured tissues.”
Efrati’s research team has spent years exploring the potential of therapy in a pressurized – or hyperbaric – chamber, breathing pure oxygen for part of the time. He works at Tel Aviv University and directs the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Shamir Medical Center, and his team spans the institutions.
Professor Shai Efrati of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Shamir Medical Center (courtesy of the Sagol Center)
For the latest study, 35 Israeli veterans were recruited, all suffering from PTSD resistant to both psychiatric drugs and psychotherapy.
They were divided into two groups. Veterans in both groups continued their regular psychological treatments, but one group of 18 veterans also completed a 60-session course in a hyperbaric chamber. They were conducted daily, five days a week.
Symptom-based assessment scores remained broadly the same in the control group, while in the group that received oxygen treatment, symptoms declined sharply, to the point that half of the participants were no longer affected. no longer considered to have PTSD.
And according to Efrati, after a passage in a hyperbaric chamber, there is an increase in brain activity in the frontal lobes of the brain, an area which is responsible for emotional regulation and executive functions, and in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory functions. .
Efrati said the research could also help develop “objective” diagnostic tools for people with PTSD.
“At present, we are conducting ongoing research to identify the biological fingerprint of PTSD, which may ultimately enable the development of innovative objective diagnostic tools,” he said.
Professor Hermona Soreq, professor of molecular neuroscience at Hebrew University, who was not involved in the research, said The Times of Israel she thinks the findings should be taken seriously. “This could be the start of a new promise, which calls for special attention,” she said while stressing that the new release is “early research with a small sample size.”
Soreq added, “PTSD is a growing concern in many societies, including Israel, and it causes long-term physical damage to the human brain, highlighting the need for new treatment modalities.
Israel’s treatment of veterans with PTSD has been in the spotlight over the past year, after an IDF veteran who had long struggled to receive help from the Defense Ministry set himself on fire by fire in front of their offices in Petah Tikva.
The veteran, Itzik Saidyan, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his service in the 2014 Gaza war.
“The development of a new therapeutic protocol is therefore of the utmost importance, especially if it offers long-term safety and a significant long-term impact,” added Soreq.
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