High-pressure nervous syndrome
High-pressure nervous syndrome (HPNS – also known as high-pressure neurological syndrome) is a neurological and physiological diving disorder which can result when a diver descends below about 500 feet (150 m) using a breathing gas containing helium. The effects experienced, and the severity of those effects, depend on the rate of descent, the depth and percentage of helium.
"Helium tremors" were first widely described in 1965 by Royal Navy physiologist Peter B. Bennett, who also founded the Divers Alert Network. Russian scientist G. L. Zal'tsman also reported on helium tremors in his experiments from 1961. However, these reports were not available in the West until 1967.
The term high-pressure nervous syndrome was first used by Brauer in 1968 to describe the combined symptoms of tremor, electroencephalography (EEG) changes, and somnolence that appeared during a 1,189-foot (362 m) chamber dive in Marseille.
HPNS has two components, one resulting from the speed of compression and the other from the absolute pressure. The compression effects may occur when descending below 500 feet (150 m) at rates greater than a few metres per minute, but reduce within a few hours once the pressure has stabilised. The effects from depth become significant at depths exceeding 1,000 feet (300 m) and remain regardless of the time spent at that depth.
The effect of dissolved helium on an embedded trans-membrane channel has also been studied by molecular modeling tools. Those suggest that helium might cause substantial lipid membrane distortion. The high hydrostatic pressure itself has a less damaging influence on the membrane, reducing molecular volumes, but leaving the molecular boundary intact.
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- Bliznyuk, Alice; Grossman, Yoram; Moskovitz, Yevgeny (25 July 2019). "The effect of high pressure on the NMDA receptor: molecular dynamics simulations". Scientific Reports. Nature Research. 9 (1). doi:10.1038/s41598-019-47102-x.
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- Fife, W. P. (1979). "The use of Non-Explosive mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen for diving". Texas A&M University Sea Grant. TAMU-SG-79-201.
- Rostain, J. C.; Gardette-Chauffour, M. C.; Lemaire, C.; Naquet, R. (1988). "Effects of a H2-He-O2 mixture on the HPNS up to 450 msw". Undersea Biomedical Research. 15 (4): 257–70. ISSN 0093-5387. OCLC 2068005. PMID 3212843. Retrieved 2008-04-07.