A single exposure to 100% normo-baric oxygen therapy appears to improve sequence learning processes by increasing prefrontal cortex oxygen saturation


Previously, we showed that a normo-baric 100 % oxygen treatment (NbOxTr) enhances motor learning processes, e.g., visuomotor adaptation (VMA) and sequence learning (SL). However, this work was limited to behavioral outcomes and did not identify the physiological mechanistic underpinnings of these improvements. Here, we expand on this research to investigate the effects of a NbOxTr on the oxygen tissue saturation index (TSI) level of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) when performing a SL task and whether potential SL improvements relate to increased TSI levels in the PFC. Twenty four right-handed young, healthy adults were randomly assigned to a NbOxTr group (normo-baric 100 % oxygen, n = 12) or a control group (normal air, n = 12). They received their respective treatments via a nasal cannula during the experiment. Oxygen TSI levels of the right and left PFC were measured via near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) throughout different SL task phases (Baseline, Training, Testing). The NbOxTr increased the TSI of the PFC in the Training phase (p textless 0.01) and positively affected SL retention in the Testing phase (p textless 0.05). We also found a positive correlation between TSI changes in the right PFC during the gas treatment phase (3.4 % increase) and response time (RT) improvements in the SL task training and retention phase (all p textless 0.05). Our results suggest that a simple NbOxTr increases the oxygenated hemoglobin availability in the PFC, which appears to mediate the retention of acquired SL improvements in healthy young adults. Future studies should examine treatment-related oxygenation changes in other brain areas involved and their relation to enhanced learning processes. Whether this NbOxTr improves SL in neurologically impaired populations should also be examined.

Brain Research