Nonetheless, he said, "There is clinical and animal data to suggest that it might help, but the studies are not conclusive. So it's fertile ground for research. There's reason to think that it might help but it's yet to be proven. It needs more research."
Thom has been studying HBOT to understand why it seems to work. One possibility, he said, is that it may affect the immune system. When a blood vessel is blocked, and reopened, surrounding tissue is often subjected to what are called "reperfusion injuries." Some studies suggest that these injuries may occur because of abnormal immune system response to the return of blood flow.
These injuries seem to benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, suggesting that the higher level of oxygen in the blood prevents this abnornal immune response.
The four-day meeting -- the Congress on Cerebral Ischemia, Vascular Dementia, Epilepsy and CNS Injury: New Aspects of Prevention and Treatment from Space and Underwater Exploration -- continues through Wednesday noon at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, formerly the Sheraton Washington.