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Hippocampal Volume Found to Increase With Aerobic Exercise

Last Updated: February 03, 2010.

Aerobic exercise can increase the volume of the hippocampus in schizophrenia patients, and may have a role in the treatment of disabilities associated with the condition, according to a study in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Aerobic exercise can increase the volume of the hippocampus in schizophrenia patients, and may have a role in the treatment of disabilities associated with the condition, according to a study in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Frank-Gerald Pajonk, M.D., of Saarland University Hospital in Homburg, Germany, and colleagues enrolled male schizophrenia outpatients in a 12-week program of aerobic exercise or non-aerobic exercise. A group of matched healthy subjects also was enrolled in a program of aerobic exercise. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to determine the volume of the hippocampus before and after the program in the groups. The subjects also underwent neuropsychological tests and clinical assessment.

The researchers found that hippocampal volume increased 12 percent in the exercising schizophrenia patients and 16 percent in the healthy subjects, but did not change in the non-aerobic-exercising patients. In the exercising schizophrenia patients, short-term memory scores increased 34 percent, while they decreased by 6 percent in the non-aerobic-exercising patients. Also, total symptom severity was 9 percent lower in the exercising patients and 13 percent higher in the non-aerobic-exercising patients.

"In summary, the present study indicates that the hippocampus in schizophrenia retains a degree of plasticity, at least in response to a specific challenge such as exercise. Further clinical studies are needed to determine if an incremental improvement in the disability related to schizophrenia could be obtained by incorporating exercise into treatment planning and lifestyle choice for individuals with the illness," the authors write.

Several study authors reported receiving consulting, advisory and speaker fees, or research support from multiple pharmaceutical companies.

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