Health

Autism Breakthrough: New Treatment Significantly Improves Social Skills and Brain Function

Human Brain Neural Network Cerebral Cortex

The researchers anticipate that the study’s success will have positive implications for clinical treatment.

The treatment caused neurological changes, including a decrease in inflammation and an increase in functionality, according to the researchers.

A recent Tel Aviv University study found that pressure chamber therapy greatly improved social skills and the condition of the autistic brain. The research was carried out on autism animal models. The researchers discovered changes in the brain, including a decrease in neuroinflammation, which has been linked to autism. Furthermore, the social functioning of the animal models treated in the pressure chamber improved significantly. The success of the research has significant implications for the applicability and understanding of pressure chamber therapy as a treatment for autism.

Inbar Fischer, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Boaz Barak’s lab at Tel Aviv University’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and School of Psychological Sciences, led the team that made the discovery. The findings were recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

According to Fischer and Barak, hyperbaric medicine is a kind of treatment in which patients are treated in special chambers where the atmospheric pressure is greater than the pressure we experience at sea level, and they are also given 100% oxygen to breathe. Hyperbaric medicine is already being used to treat a wide range of medical conditions and is considered to be safe. Scientific evidence has accumulated in recent years that certain protocols of hyperbaric treatments boost the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain, thereby increasing brain function.

Dr. Barak: “The medical causes of autism are numerous and varied, and ultimately create the diverse autistic spectrum with which we are familiar. About 20 percent of autistic cases today are explained by genetic causes, that is, those involving genetic defects, but not necessarily ones that are inherited from the parents. Despite the variety of sources of autism, the entire spectrum of behavioral problems associated with it are still included under the single broad heading of ‘autism,’ and the treatments and medications offered do not necessarily correspond directly to the reason why the autism developed.”

In the preliminary phase of the study, a girl carrying the mutation in the SHANK3 gene, which is known to lead to autism, was treated by Prof. Shai Efrati. He is director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine at the Shamir “Assaf Harofeh” Medical Center, a faculty member at the Sagol School of Neuroscience, and a partner in the study. Upon completing a series of treatments in the pressure chamber, it was evident that the girl’s social abilities and brain function had improved considerably.

In the next stage, and in order to comprehend the success of the treatment more deeply, the team of researchers at Dr. Barak’s laboratory sought to understand what being in a pressurized chamber does to the brain. To this end, the researchers used adult animal models carrying the same genetic mutation in the SHANK3 gene as that carried by the girl who had been treated. The experiment comprised a protocol of 40 one-hour treatments in a pressure chamber, which lasted several weeks.

Dr. Barak: “We discovered that treatment in the oxygen-enriched pressure chamber reduces inflammation in the brain and leads to an increase in the expression of substances responsible for improving blood and oxygen supply to the brain, and therefore brain function. In addition, we saw a decrease in the number of microglial cells, immune system cells that indicate inflammation, which is associated with autism.

“Beyond the neurological findings we discovered, what interested us more than anything was to see whether these improvements in the brain also led to an improvement in social behavior, which is known to be impaired in autistic individuals,” adds Dr. Barak.

“To our surprise, the findings showed a significant improvement in the social behavior of the animal models of autism that underwent treatment in the pressure chamber compared to those in the control group, who were exposed to air at normal pressure, and without oxygen enrichment. The animal models that underwent treatment displayed increased social interest, preferring to spend more time in the company of new animals to which they were exposed in comparison to the animal models from the control group.”

Inbar Fischer concludes: “The mutation in the animal models is identical to the mutation that exists in humans. Therefore, our research is likely to have clinical implications for improving the pathological condition of autism resulting from this genetic mutation, and likely also of autism stemming from other causes. Because the pressure chamber treatment is non-intrusive and has been found to be safe, our findings are encouraging and demonstrate that this treatment may improve these behavioral and neurological aspects in humans as well, in addition to offering a scientific explanation of how they occur in the brain.”

Reference: “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Alleviates Social Behavior Dysfunction and Neuroinflammation in a Mouse Model for Autism Spectrum Disorders” by Inbar Fischer, Sophie Shohat, Gilad Levy, Ela Bar, Sari Schokoroy Trangle, Shai Efrati and Boaz Barak, 21 September 2022, International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
DOI: 10.3390/ijms231911077

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  • if this was true then i'd expect to see this news everywhere i look, not just on this one site
    truth is, there isn't enough research on this right now to truly say if this can help manage autism
    lets just treat autistic people like normal, aye?

    do your own reading if you like:
    https://www.nice.org.uk/donotdo/do-not-use-hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy-to-manage-autism-in-any-context-in-children-and-young-people
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5471082/
    https://asatonline.org/for-parents/becoming-a-savvy-consumer/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy/

  • i feel like if this was legit we'd be seeing news about this everywhere (which i'm not seeing)
    doing my own research concludes that this "treatment" is shaky at best, and hasn't been given the proper scientific investigation it may or may not deserve

    i don't think i'm allowed to share links here, so just search up "hyperbaric chamber autism" and do your own research
    for now, let's just not try to alienate autistic people aye?

  • Begs the question.... how long does the improved behavioral and neurological improvements last--days, weeks, months, years? Are additional hyperbaric treatments needed to maintain these improvements?

    • If you're happy as you are, that's genuinely awesome, you don't need to try it. But there are lots of people who would love to have it better managed than what is currently offered.

      What you want might not be what the next person wants, though.

      • Allow me to clarify what Danielle might have been getting at. The characteristics of autism are part of us. Sure, learning life skills through OT, doing speech therapy, etc can be super useful and good for people with ASD to have a better quality of life. But neurotypicals trying to "fix" their autism because their autistic-ness doesnt fit in with society. The problem here isnt that people with autism are perfectly happy with their quality of life. Being autistic in this society sucks. Its horrible. But what a lot of autistics want is for society to change- being more inclusive, accepting, and accessable- not constantly hear how neurotypical society thinks they can and need to change us.

          • You don't need those things. But some autistic people do.

            Please make room for *their* lived experience of autism, as you would like other people to make room for yours.

        • It's a disability and many of us would like to treat or cure certain aspects to make our day to day life easier.

  • Maybe the autistic people in the study were more regulated because the sensory environment of the hyperbaric oxygen tanks was ideal for them? And maybe there is nothing wrong with autistic people's socialization, maybe it's just different.

  • So my question is what the expectations are and how will preparations be made in the outcome of humans treated with this method in correlation to the absence of consciousness in a person. How will the transition be for the peraon treated. Would it be like the person experiencing birth? What are the difficulties of this?

  • This is fascinating to see used as a treatment. The implications and subsequent results would constitute being better classified as a cure. As for the people with negative responses to this, this is a new study, not going to see a lot of news, still in lab trials, for the one that doesn't want autism fixed, ignorance is bliss, but please keep that ignorance to yourself. My specific form of autism is quite painful. Increasing my brain function would be fantastic. If you find that insulting, that is awesome. What are you doing looking at cures and treatments for something you are comfortable with? Wouldn't you find something positive to occupy yourself with?

  • This research presents autism as a genetic weakness that needs to be cured which it is not it is neurodiversity which in many cases is proven to be an advantage Elon musk, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and many more had autism and they flourished. We need to help the disadvantages that autism brings and nurture the extraordinary things it does not try to eliminate it all together. This project is a pure example of fascism the belief that one group of people is superior to another. I feel sorry for the people and animals that have and will be in this experiment.

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Tel-Aviv University

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