The human brain receives about 20% of total body oxygen consumption, usually through normal breathing in a normal situation. It functions mainly for cognition, consciousness, orientation, speech and memory. Its enclosure in a cranium with the protection of meninges and brain- blood barrier suggests its vulnerability and fragility especially from abrupt changes of conditions such as temperature or pressure.
Change in pressure
The principle of Robert Boyle in the gas law identifies the volume of gas that is inversely proportional to the pressure, or as the pressure decreases, the volume of gas increases. In addition, Henry’s law describes the solubility of gases in liquids, which means that the solubility depends mainly on the ideal pressure of the gas in contact with the liquid.
Normally, the human body consists mainly of water, thus the solubility of gases in water plays a significant role in the absorption and release of inert gases by the body’s tissues. Even a slight deviation of air consumption, pressure, or temperature will indeed yield traumatic effect to the body, particularly to the brain.
There are many physiological effects when the human body is submerged into the deep, like in the case of sea diving. Scuba diving is a recreational sport in diving to a depth between 130 and 150 feet. Before, this was primarily used in the military sea operation. Today, it has increased its popularity especially to people who are nature trippers; making it a sought-after water sports during summer vacation. This high-risk sport should be made only after a pre- training, to test scientifically the individual diver’s capabilities and sensitivity to increasing depths.
Effects of Deep Sea
It is true that the underwater environment is really exquisite, extravagant, and exceptional; yet it can be potentially hazardous or risky to anyone not familiar to the condition. Whenever, the diver goes deeper into the sea, the pressure of the surroundings increases. A diver’s cognition is not affected on dives as low as 10 meters in depth, but the changes in depth are not usually perceptible. If this happens where the condition is under increased pressure, oxygen changes its effect on the body. From a gas of prime importance at normal pressure, it turns into a lethal gas as depths progress. When the toxic oxygen saturates the system then it starts to destroy some neurons and eventually triggers the central nervous system to be overexcited which then causes death.
Another effect of deep dive is the decompression sickness or commonly known as the bends. This results from the formation of bubbles in the blood or body tissues. Usually, some functions of the brains are affected by this condition like the weakening of movement coordination, decrease of higher brain function, and delayed reflexes.
Scuba diving may also have long-term negative neuron-functional effects when performed in extreme conditions, such as the dip in cold water, more than 100 dives per year, and a depth below 40 meters. Significant impairment due to narcosis is an increasing risk below depths of about 30 meters.
Nitrogen narcosis is a condition in scuba diving where a diver has feelings of ecstasy and euphoria. This state has the potential to be extremely dangerous, because the nitrogen gas does not react chemically with the body; it is considered that the nitrogen gas affects the signals that are sent along the nerve fibers in the body. Then, resulting in the impact being mainly related to brain and nerve functions.
The diver is exposed to increasing dangers, which develops as he/she approaches the depth. Pressure becomes intense as the diver dips down the sea. Improper use of sea materials or lack of knowledge about diving can lead to a serious problem. Divers should undergo proper education and guidance from experts before they finally take the plunge.
The simplest way to avoid nitrogen narcosis is for a diver to limit the depth of dives. When narcosis occurs, it is only temporary and would disappear instantly when the diver ascends to a shallower depth. To guarantee safe sea diving, hold on to all rules and take all possible precautions. In doing so, you will ensure a safe, pleasurable diving experience, without any harmful side effects to your body particularly to your brain.
Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten