New Treatment For Autism Dramatically Enhances Social Abilities And Cognitive Performance

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Neurological modifications, such as reduced inflammation and enhanced functionality, were reportedly brought about by the treatment. A new study conducted at Tel Aviv University indicated that autistic individuals who underwent pressure chamber therapy saw significant improvements in their social skills and mental health. Animal models of autism were used in the study. Neuroinflammation, which has been related to autism, was shown to be reduced in the brain, among other alterations. The pressure chamber also had a notable effect on the social behavior of the animal models. The findings have important ramifications for the future of pressure chamber therapy and our knowledge of autism treatment.

PhD candidate Inbar Fischer of Tel Aviv University’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and School of Psychological Sciences led the research team.  Fischer and Barak define hyperbaric medicine as a method of therapy in which patients are administered 100% oxygen while being treated in pressurized chambers with atmospheric pressures higher than those at sea level. Since its inception, hyperbaric medicine has been successfully used to treat a wide variety of medical diseases without any reported adverse effects. There has been mounting evidence in recent years that particular hyperbaric treatment procedures increase brain function by improving blood and oxygen supply to the brain.

Prof. Shai Efrati, director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine at the Shamir “Assaf Harofeh” Medical Center, faculty member at the Sagol School of Neuroscience, and study collaborator, treated a girl with the SHANK3 gene mutation, which is known to cause autism, during the study’s pilot phase. After a course of pressure chamber therapy, the girl’s social abilities and cognitive capacities notably blossomed.

The researchers at Dr. Barak’s lab moved on to the next phase, which involved learning about the effects of being in a pressurized chamber on the brain in order to fully grasp the treatment’s efficacy. The researchers wanted to see if they could replicate the positive effects of treating the girl by studying adult animal models with the same SHANK3 gene mutation. Over the course of many weeks, participants had a total of forty one-hour treatments within a pressure chamber as part of the experiment’s methodology.

The results were published in the current issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

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