Chinese scientists managed to prevent the decrease of intelligence caused by mountain sickness in two different ways: by the appointment of a nootropic preparation of oxyracetam and stimulation of the nucleus of the tent of the cerebellum. The research report is published in the journal Brain and Behavior.
Cognitive disorders of varying severity due to oxygen starvation are often observed with a rapid rise to a high altitude, even in people adapted to a constant stay of 1000-2000 meters above sea level. They increase the risk of accidents in high-mountain conditions and can persist for some time after the descent, leading to a decrease in efficiency. Effective methods for preventing these disorders have not yet been developed.
Employees of the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing invited to participate in the study of 60 volunteers serving in the Chinese armed forces. All of them for several years lived at an altitude of about 1800 meters above sea level. During the experiment, participants for the first time in their lives for three days rose to a height of 4000 meters.
A third of the volunteers, eight days before the ascent, began a 15-day course of taking oxiracetam at a dose of 800 milligrams three times a day. This drug is a derivative of piracetam and refers to nootropics – drugs that improve cognitive functions (thinking, learning, memory). Oxiracetam is not part of the pharmacopeia of most countries but is widely used for experimental purposes.
Another third of participants during the same time once a day received a half hour transcranial electrostimulation of the nucleus of the cerebellar tent, which takes part in the work of the vestibular system. The remaining volunteers entered the control group.
During the experiment, brain function of the participants was assessed using various cognitive tests, recording auditory evoked potentials (for analyzing the conduct of a nerve impulse from the auditory nerve to the cerebral cortex), dopplerography of cerebral vessels and electroencephalography.
After ascension to a given height in the control group, there was a worsening of cognitive functions, a slowing down of nerve impulses, an increase in the blood supply to the brain stem (responsible for regulating respiration, circulation and other basic life support functions) due to the cortex (responsible for higher nervous activity) and encephalographic disorders. Both oxiracetam and electrostimulation effectively prevented all these disorders in experimental groups.
According to scientists, the proposed methods can become a means of preventing cognitive disorders in high-mountain conditions. However, the mechanism of their action remains unexplored and requires further research.
Earlier, Japanese scientists who surveyed the indigenous inhabitants of the Himalayas managed to refute the widely held view in the scientific community that life in high-mountainous hypoxia conditions increases the risk of depression and suicidal tendencies.