Exploring the Cognitive and Electrophysiological Effects of Oxygen in Humans


As anyone who flies to a high elevation destination is very aware of, there is an impact on the amount of Oxygen (O2) in the air and how our body functions. Most studies look at what happens when O2 level are too low, this study looked at what happens to the brain when the air has more O2 that usual. Published in Peer-Reviewed journal

Wes and his lab found that breathing in pure O2 air would increase alertness brain activity when awake, but sleep-related brain activity if they closed their eyes.

The Scientists

Wesley Vuong, Undergraduate Student

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Clayton Dickson

University of Alberta

Dr. Dickson's Website


People already manipulate O2 levels for a number of reasons. Athletes will train at high altitude, Oxygen Bars in Vegas are supposed to give you a competitive edge, and is an important part of anesthesia for some surgeries. This makes it important to understand how each of these conditions influence our brain and any important health consequences. It was surprising that the effects of high Oxygen air on brain activity depended on if your eyes were open or not, highlighting the complexity of the brain and the need for studies like this to test not only new treatments, but existing practices as well.


Once we were able to demonstrate that brain activity changes due to O2 administration were state-dependent (i.e., if you were awake or if you were in early stages of sleep), the next steps of the research was determining the impact of O2 on sleep. This was the premise of a follow-up BONF summer research project where we recruited post-secondary students and asked them to come into the lab to nap while we recorded their brain activity with O2 administration. Working on these projects helped to develop critical thinking and refine Wes's analytical skills as he pivoted from neuroscience researcher to working in public health. In this new role, Wes remained in the realm of mental health that he is very passionate about and able to apply newly refined critical lens and creative problem solving skills towards. 

Amount Funded: $14,000


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