Posts Tagged ‘aerobic exercise’

Exercise Makes Your Brain Bigger

Sunday, February 21st, 2010
Aerobic Exercise Increases Hippocampal Volume

Aerobic Exercise Increases Hippocampal Volume

In a study that focused specifically on patients suffering from schizophrenia, but also observing changes in non-schizophrenics, scientists have found that aerobic exercise increases the volume of the hippocampus by as much as 16%.

The volume increased by 12% in those with schizophrenia and by 16% in those without and was associated with improvements in short-term memory test scores.
“These results indicate that in [these patients], hippocampal volume is plastic in response to aerobic exercise,” write Frank-Gerald Pajonk, MD, Dr. K. Fontheim’s Hospital for Mental Health, Liedenburg, Germany, and colleagues.

“To provide a context, the magnitude of these changes in volume was similar to that observed for other subcortical structures when patients were switched from typical to atypical antipsychotic drug therapy,” they add.

“To be honest, we’ve been surprised that we found these results,” Dr. Pajonk told Medscape Psychiatry. “We double and tripled checked it, but the results were always confirmed. To our knowledge, this is the first time that it has been shown that the hippocampus is growing in patients with schizophrenia with a suitable method.

“As the hippocampus is one of the core structures in schizophrenia, we were thinking that if there was an increase in volume, it could give some improvement in cognition. And that’s what we found, at least to a small extent,” he added.

We’ve done this same study in other brain structures and did not find any volume increases,” said Dr. Pajonk. “So this really seems to be a result that is specific to the hippocampus. That means it’s not just a question of blood flow or unspecific factors, but maybe it’s really specific for development of neurons in terms of increase in synapses or even neurogenesis.”

He added that it may be too soon to draw any clinical conclusions.

The investigators hope to continue to follow up these patients and are awaiting funding for a new study comparing the effects of exercise with cognitive training.

“Although I can’t prove it right now, I’m positive that exercise is doing good in the treatment of schizophrenia,” said Dr. Pajonk. “Many of the schizophrenia patients from the sporting groups were able to go on and develop a life of their own, moving to a new apartment, taking up a job again, etc. It’s a bit early and we just had a small sample size, but with this small number of patients, we were really surprised and amazed at what has happened to them.”

From Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67:133-143.

Also see:

Schizophrenia Improved By Mental And Physical Exercise

Effects of Physical Exercise & Schizophrenia