Studies have shown that children with Autism may have decreased blood flow through the brain, and more specifically, the sides of the brain. This can be shown on a SPECT scan (a very special CT scan). Less blood flow through the brain can be equated with decreased oxygen flowing through the brain as well, since one of the major roles of blood flow is to deliver oxygen to tissues. By increasing the amount of oxygen carried by the blood stream (more specifically, the plasma), the greater opportunity for oxygen deprived tissue to receive more oxygen.
Common things witnessed in hyperbaric clinics who work with autistic children include:
- Improved sleep
- Improved bowel function
- Regulation of bowel movements
- Improved immune functioning with a decrease in frequent infections
- Improved expressive language
- Improved receptive language
- Improved fine and gross motor skills
- Improved muscle tone and strength
- Increased mental alertness
- Increased calmness
- Improved mood
HBOT for Autism
Why HBOT for Autism?
Multiple studies have shown that autism is a neurodegenerative (a loss of nerve cells/death of neurons) disease that features cerebral hypoperfusion, brain and GI inflammation, and increased oxidative stress. Hypoperfusion refers to decrease blood flow. Numerous studies on children with autism have shown decreased blood flow to the brain, especially in the temporal regions. The temporal lobes are responsible for speech, memory, emotional responses, auditory and visual processing, and olfactory (sense of smell)). This hypoperfusion is associated with many core symptoms of children with autism.
Decreased blood flow to the temporal lobes has also been correlated with an “obsessive desire for sameness”, “impairments in communication and social interaction”, and also with decreased IQ. Decreased blood flow to the temporal lobes and amygdala has been correlated with impairments in processing facial expressions and emotions and trouble recognizing familiar faces. Decreased blood flow to the thalamus has been correlated with repetitive, self-stimulatory, and unusual behaviors including resistance to changes in routine and environment.
Cerebral hypoperfusion causes hypoxia (or decreased oxygen), which triggers electrical failure in brain cells. Worsening hypoxia then eventually results in ion pump failure, which ultimately leads to cell death. Studies have shown that the oxygen delivered by HBOT can reverse hypoxia in brain tissues caused by hypoperfusion.
Inflammation is a known cause of decreased bloood flow. Research has shown us that when the GI tract is inflamed, so is the brain and immune system. It’s the triad of the gut, brain and immune system that are susceptible to inflammation if one of the three is damaged. HBOT improves gut inflammation by killing off the bad bacteria. Bacteria thrives on an oxygen deprived environment. When infused with oxygen, it dies off. Therefore, having a good probiotic on board, anti-oxidants like vitamin E, selenium, glutathione, and melatonin are recommended during HBOT treatments.
HBOT has improved symptoms in children with autism including enhancements in socialization, language, and repetitive behaviors. The GI tract improves, inflammation is reduced/eliminated, better sleep and improvements will continue months after treatment is concluded.