Tagged: brain


Oxygen treatment reverses brain damage in a 2-year-old drowning patient

Why it matters to you

This remarkable case study is touted as an example of the extraordinary power of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Doctors at LSU Health New Orleans and the University of North Dakota have successfully reversed severe brain damage[1] suffered by a 2-year-old girl after she came close to drowning[2]. To achieve this remarkable result, the physicians used hyperbaric oxygen[3], a medical treatment which enhances the body’s ability to heal itself by getting patients to inhale pure oxygen in a special chamber, where atmospheric pressure can be entirely controlled.

“When [patient Eden Carlson] arrived, she really couldn’t stand or bear any weight, her mental status was not normal, and she was very uncoordinated,” Dr. Paul Harch[4], the director of Hyperbaric Medicine at LSU Health, told Digital Trends. “By the end of the treatment, she was walking and her speech was at a level advanced beyond when she had had the drowning accident months before.”

As Harch notes, brain damage caused by trauma like a near-drowning experience can continue long after a person is rescued. “There’s the initial incident, and then a secondary inflammatory reaction that occurs, which starts almost immediately after a person is pulled out of the water and circulation is reestablished,” he said.

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In the case of Eden, treatment began 55 days after her near-drowning in a swimming pool. Although her heart stopped, medics were able to resuscitate her at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, although MRI scans revealed significant loss of gray and white matter in her brain. “Had we not intervened, an MRI at six months would have likely shown greater atrophy of brain tissue,” Harch said.

The oxygen treatment started 55 days after her drowning event, with two 45-minute sessions taking place every day — using both regular oxygen and hyperbaric oxygen treatments. Over the course of weeks, Eden returned to normal. An MRI scan[5] carried out one month after treatment ended showed that brain damage had been almost entirely reversed, with just mild residual injury remaining.

“Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to treat around 43 near-drowning children with hyperbaric oxygen,” Harch said. “However, this is the first child I’ve been able to treat so early after the injury. Most of the time it’s been one to two years after the injury, at which point most of the injured brain tissue has been lost. While we’ve documented improvement as a result of the hyperbaric oxygen, it was nowhere near as dramatic as with Eden because we were intervening so late.”

While there is still skepticism about the success of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) among some experts[6], this is certainly a compelling piece of evidence to add to the existing case studies. A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Medical Gas Research[7].


  1. ^ successfully reversed severe brain damage (www.lsuhsc.edu)
  2. ^ drowning (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ hyperbaric oxygen (www.hbot.com)
  4. ^ Dr. Paul Harch (www.hbot.com)
  5. ^ An MRI scan (www.digitaltrends.com)
  6. ^ among some experts (www.fda.gov)
  7. ^ published in the journal Medical Gas Research (www.medgasres.com)

Scientists discover a way to extend a mouse’s memory while it sleeps

Why it matters to you

Research could one day help humans improve their memory while they slumber.

Have you ever fallen asleep desperately trying to remember something, only to wake up in the morning with the memory readily available to you? No, it’s not just you this has happened to — and nor is it a fluke. In fact, a new research project[1] by South Korea’s Institute for Basic Science’s Center for Cognition and Sociality builds on the insight that a good night’s sleep can help us remember what we have studied or experienced the day before.

In doing so, researchers have discovered that the triggering of specific brain waves during sleep can almost double long-term memory. Although, sadly, it’s not available to humans just yet.

Previous studies have shown that several brain rhythms — cortical slow wave, thalamic spindle, and hippocampal sharp-wave-ripples (SWR) — take place during sleep, and that these are involved in memory consolidation. These phases of sleep alternate with REM sleep, which is associated with dreaming. The researchers focused on spindles, which come from a part of the brain called the thalamic reticular nucleus, and spike at a rate of around seven to 15  per second. The number of spindles increases after a day with plenty of learning and also decline in elderly people — suggesting a strong link with memorization.

In an experiment[2], mice were implanted with a fear memory by putting them in a special cage and then giving them a mild electric shock after playing atonal noise. The day after this was done, the mice had their memories tested by seeing how they responded to either the cage or the same noise. By using different levels of light stimulations on the mice the night before the test, the researchers were able to manipulate the number of overnight spindles — thereby either increasing or reducing memory of the fear memory.

“The results were dramatic,” Dr. Hee-Sup Shin[3], director of the Center for Cognition and Sociality, told Digital Trends. “Inducing extra amount of spindles in the brain during sleep after fear conditioning helped the mice remember better the fear memory, twice as strongly, when assayed next day. Importantly, only the group of mice that received spindle induction in-phase with cortical slow waves revealed enhanced memory, while the two control groups did not.”

Long-term, the hope is that the work could be used for brain-training in humans. “In the current experiments done in the mouse, we use optogenetic tools which involve expressing a foreign gene and implanting an optic cable in the thalamic reticular nucleus of the mouse,” Shin said. “These tools may not be used for humans. In the future, however, when non-invasive tools are developed for manipulating brain rhythms in humans, a similar approach may be tried in humans to improve memory for whatever purposes.”

Hey, when it comes to next generation sleep trackers[4] — from wearable devices[5] to smart mattresses[6] — we’d totally be on board for something that can help us better revise for our exams!


  1. ^ new research project (www.sciencedaily.com)
  2. ^ In an experiment (www.cell.com)
  3. ^ Dr. Hee-Sup Shin (ccs.ibs.re.kr)
  4. ^ next generation sleep trackers (www.digitaltrends.com)
  5. ^ wearable devices (www.digitaltrends.com)
  6. ^ smart mattresses (www.digitaltrends.com)

Neuroscientists figure out how to wipe individual memories from the brain — of a snail

Why it matters to you

Research on selectively wiping snails’ memories could make it possible to develop drugs that can delete traumatic memories, without negatively impacting memories of other past events.

“It’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind[1], but with snails” sounds like a desperate Friday afternoon pitch meeting at Pixar, where everyone’s a bit tired and just wants to get home for the weekend.

In fact, it describes actual work being carried out by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and Montreal’s McGill University.

For those who haven’t seen it, Eternal Sunshine tells the story of an estranged couple who use mind-wiping technology to have their memories of one another erased after they’ve broken up. Similarly — albeit without the relationship part — Columbia and McGill researchers have figured out how to selectively wipe some memories belonging to a certain type of marine snail, while leaving others intact.

They believe the research could make it possible to one day develop drugs that can “delete” certain traumatic memories without negatively impacting memories of other past events.

To carry out their targeted memory erasure, the researchers blocked certain molecules associated with an enzyme called Protein Kinase M (PKM), which is a crucial part of retaining long-term memories. Their work is described in a paper published in the journal Current Biology[2].

While it’s so far only been demonstrated on snails, they believe the work represents a valuable insight into the way that memories are laid down, and that its findings could be extrapolated to humans as well. That’s in part due to the fact that the PKM-protecting protein KIBRA is expressed in humans, and that mutations of this gene have been shown to result in intellectual disability.

“What makes the results reported in the paper promising is that the molecules we examined are expressed in mouse and man, and have been found to participate in long-term memory and long-term synaptic plasticity,” Samuel Schacher[3], a professor of neuroscience in the department of psychiatry at Columbia, told Digital Trends. “Homologous forms of the PKMs, and KIBRA in particular, are expressed in man. In elderly people with Alzheimer’s and old-age forms of dementia, the expression of KIBRA is compromised. This provides additional impetus to explore the panoply of different molecules contributing to the maintenance of different forms of synaptic plasticity and memory. Once the catalog of molecules is available, the design of specific drugs to affect the function of specific molecules can be examined in more ‘advanced’ animal models, and hopefully designed for use in humans.”

Proper regulation to ensure such drugs aren’t abused could make the results another smart tool[4] in the arsenal[5] to help improve life for people suffering from anxieties from traumatic memories. Even more traumatic — if you can believe such a thing exists — than breaking up with Jim Carrey or a blue-haired Kate Winslet.


  1. ^ Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (www.youtube.com)
  2. ^ paper published in the journal Current Biology (www.cell.com)
  3. ^ Samuel Schacher (neuroscience.columbia.edu)
  4. ^ another smart tool (www.digitaltrends.com)
  5. ^ in the arsenal (www.digitaltrends.com)