The Rate Limiting Compound?
Although our brain makes up less than 2% of our body’s mass it consumes 20-25% of our body’s oxygen intake. Unlike other organs, the brain has no storage capacity for energy, therefore it requires a constant and consistent blood flow for delivery of oxygen, glucose and fatty acids for metabolism.
20-25% is an incredibly high number for 1 organ and this means that our brain is massively energy dependent for proper function!
The next logical question would be, “Is that the correct percentage of oxygen our brain requires for optimal function, or is that just the maximum amount of oxygen the body has to spare and share with and feed the brain.”
In other words, if the brain had access to higher concentrations oxygen, could it function at a higher level? With greater nourishment to the brain, we could potentially heal faster from injury, perform at higher levels and generate greater capacity for neuroplasticity.
Research is now being conducted to try and answer this very question!
Under “normal” healthy circumstances, we are already about 97-99% saturated with oxygen. This means that we are already carrying almost all the oxygen we are capable of carrying.
In fact, we really need to be almost fully saturated with oxygen every minute of every day just to maintain “normal” healthy functions. Testing the question, can the brain increase performance if it had access to higher levels of oxygen?, has been generally overlooked since it is not easy to find ways of getting the body to absorb more than 100% oxygen saturation. One of the only ways to do this is through Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). In a hyperbaric environment, we are able to absorb more oxygen because we can bypass the normal red blood cell carrying capacity all together. This lets us to absorb oxygen directly into the plasma of our blood and into our tissues, allowing us to access extraordinary amounts of “extra” oxygen. Depending on the amounts of pressure and oxygen being used along with manipulating the frequency and duration of treatments we are able to increase oxygen absorption well beyond the 100% carrying capacity of the red blood cells. It is possible to see anywhere from 15%-60% more absorption of oxygen in a hyperbaric environment.
By performing pre and post testing of multitasking and dual tasking activities, the research has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that if our brains had access to higher levels of oxygen, they would be capable of higher and more complex processing of information and performance.
As a result of exposure to higher levels of oxygen following the HBOT treatments the subjects all demonstrated increases in their performance and capacity scores. This has obvious implications in improving performance as well as improving neuroplasticity healing and growth.
Dor Vadas1*, Leonid Kalichman2, Amir Hadanny3,4,5 and Shai Efrati3,4,6 (2017) Hyperbaric Oxygen Environment Can Enhance Brain Activity and Multitasking Performance Front. Integr. Neurosci., 27 September 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2017.00025
Choi, M. H., Kim, J. H., Kim, H. J., Choi, J. S., Yi Jeong, H., and Chung, S. C. (2013). Correlation between cognitive ability measured by response time of 1 back task and changes of SpO 2 by supplying three different levels of oxygen in the elderly. Gerontology 13, 384–387. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-
Boussi-Gross, R., Golan, H., Volkov, O., Bechor, Y., Hooflen, D., Schnaider Beeri, M., et al. (2015). Improvement of memory impairments in poststroke patients by hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Am. Psychol. Assoc. 29, 610–621. doi: 10.1037/neu0000149