Oxygen therapy could help combat dementia in individuals with lung disease

July 5, 2018, The Physiological Society

Breathing in additional oxygen improves the function of blood vessels in the brain of people with breathing difficulties caused by lung conditions, according to new research published in Experimental Physiology. These findings could have implications for future research aiming to prevent the development of diseases affecting the brain, such as dementia.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the collective term for a group of lung conditions that cause long term . It is a common condition affecting mainly middle-aged or older adults who smoke, with symptoms including breathlessness and a chesty 'smokers' cough. Individuals with COPD are at higher risk of dementia—one current theory suggests that this is due to lower brain oxygen levels as a result of problems with supply from in the brain. In line with this theory, some studies have reported that giving COPD patients additional oxygen reduced their risk of developing dementia. However, until now, the mechanisms underlying this positive effect had not been fully investigated.

The research aimed to establish the effect of supplying additional oxygen on both blood flow to the brain and blood vessel function in COPD patients. The researchers used ultrasound to view and measure blood flow in the brain in these patients at rest, before and during delivery of this additional oxygen. The oxygen was delivered through the nasal passage for 20-30 minutes. In addition to testing blood flow in the brain, the authors also tested the link between brain activity and blood flow in the brain. Participants began this test with their eyes shut, having to open them and then read standardised text. This task was designed to increase activity in the brain, and as a result was expected to increase to provide adequate oxygen supply. Ultrasound was used to measure the extent to which brain blood flow increased. Pairing these ultrasound measures with a measurement of allowed authors to estimate how much to the brain increased during the eyes open reading test.

The research team found that and oxygen delivery to the brain was significantly increased during reading. This was due to blood vessels in the brain becoming dilated in response to the greater oxygen demand when the brain was active. It can thus be concluded that when COPD patients receive additional oxygen it improves the function of blood vessels in their brain.

This study showed that providing extra oxygen improves the function of blood vessels in the brain by matching blood supply to the demands of the brain activity. However, COPD patients typically use this extra oxygen therapy throughout the day and for long periods of time, potentially years. This study does not indicate the influence of long term oxygen therapy on the function of blood vessels in the brain. Despite these potential limitations, this work has set the foundation for the researchers to investigate the biological systems that control delivery to the .

Lead author Ryan Hoiland, an early career researcher, learned much from the research process: "I am typically used to working with young, healthy individuals, and so this study in patients with lung disease was an eye-opening experience. I learned more about where I want to take my research career in the future, and how I want to design my research to hopefully improve treatments for people with breathing difficulties."

Explore further: High blood pressure limits protection to vital organs and tissues in low-oxygen conditions

More information: Oxygen therapy improves cerebral oxygen delivery and neurovascular function in hypoxemic chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients, Experimental Physiology, DOI: 10.1113/EP086994

Related Stories

High blood pressure limits protection to vital organs and tissues in low-oxygen conditions

February 21, 2018
New research published in the Journal of Physiology sheds light on the effects of high blood pressure by considering the way the body responds to a lack of oxygen.

Sleep disorder linked with changes to brain structure typical of dementia

July 4, 2018
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is associated with changes to the structure of the brain that are also seen in the early stages of dementia, according to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal.

Stroke: Researchers shed light on the brain recovery process and new treatment strategies

May 16, 2018
Stroke is one of three leading causes of death in Canada and leads to permanent disability in about half of survivors. During an ischemic stroke, there is a blockage of blood flow which results in cell death in a specific ...

Is Alzheimer's caused by disruptions to the brain's energy supply?

April 4, 2018
It is well known that Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, involves the accumulation of sticky proteins (plaques and tangles) in the brain. But we still don't know what the root cause of the disease is. ...

Faults in the blood-brain barrier implicated in dementia

February 6, 2018
California based researchers have found that damage to cells known as pericytes, which surround small blood vessels in the brain, may trigger a chain of events that results in brain degeneration. The findings are published ...

Brain study connects cannabis, oxygen changes

August 14, 2017
New research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas reveals that levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that leaves a euphoric feeling, directly correlate to changes in how the ...

Recommended for you

Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production and survival of myelin-forming cells

July 19, 2018
The nervous system is a complex organ that relies on a variety of biological players to ensure daily function of the human body. Myelin—a membrane produced by specialized glial cells—plays a critical role in protecting ...

Neurons can carry more than one signal at a time

July 18, 2018
Back in the early days of telecommunications, engineers devised a clever way to send multiple telephone calls through a single wire at the same time. Called time-division multiplexing, this technique rapidly switches between ...

Researchers solve mystery of how ALL enters the central nervous system

July 18, 2018
A deadly feature of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is its invasion of the central nervous system.

Pregnancy history may be tied to Alzheimer's disease

July 18, 2018
A woman's history of pregnancy may affect her risk of Alzheimer's disease decades later, according to a study published in the July 18, 2018, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. ...

Forty percent of people have a fictional first memory, says study

July 17, 2018
Researchers have conducted one of the largest surveys of people's first memories, finding that nearly 40 per cent of people had a first memory which is fictional.

Protein found to be key component in irregularly excited brain cells

July 17, 2018
In a new study in mice, researchers have identified a key protein involved in the irregular brain cell activity seen in autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy. The protein, p53, is well-known in cancer biology as a tumor ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.