Current neurologic assessments consider idling neurons and ischemic penumbras to be metabolically lethargic and electrically nonfunctional or nonviable. Diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutics of central nervous system dysfunctions require differentiation between viable and nonviable neurons. It is necessary to develop and document efficacious and safe techniques for reactivating idling neurons. The authors present a case study of a near drowning 12 years earlier. Areas of cortical hypometabolism were identified by using SPECT imaging in conjunction with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). Delayed imaging after HBOT (1 hour, 1.5 atm abs) suggested viable but metabolically lethargic neurons. After HBOT (80 1-hour treatments, monoplace chamber, 1.5 atm abs), marked improvements in cognitive and motor functioning were demonstrated. The data support the hypothesis that idling neurons and ischemic penumbras, when given sufficient oxygen, are capable of reactivation. Thus, changes in tracer distribution after a single exposure to HBOT may be a good prognostic indicator of viable neurons. HBOT may be valuable not only in recovery from anoxic encephalopathy but also from other traumatic and nontraumatic dysfunctions of the central nervous system, including stroke. HBOT in conjunction with physical and rehabilitative therapy may help reactivated idling neurons to remain permanently active.

Neubauer, Gottlieb, Miale, , , , , , (1992). Identification of hypometabolic areas in the brain using brain imaging and hyperbaric oxygen. Clinical nuclear medicine, 1992 Jun;17(6):477-81. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1617842