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Prefrontal and Hippocampal Brain Volume Deficits: Role of Low Physical Activity on Brain Plasticity in First-Episode Schizophrenia Patients

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2015

Sarah C. McEwen
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Anthony Hardy
Affiliation:
Department of Radiology, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Benjamin M. Ellingson
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California Department of Radiology, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Behnaz Jarrahi
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Navjot Sandhu
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Kenneth L. Subotnik
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Joseph Ventura
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Keith H. Nuechterlein
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Our objective in the present study was to conduct the first empirical study of the effects of regular physical activity habits and their relationship with brain volume and cortical thickness in patients in the early phase of schizophrenia. Relationships between larger brain volumes and higher physical activity levels have been reported in samples of healthy and aging populations, but have never been explored in first-episode schizophrenia patients. Method: We collected MRI structural scans in 14 first-episode schizophrenia patients with either self-reported low or high physical activity levels. We found a reduction in total gray matter volume, prefrontal cortex (PFC), and hippocampal gray matter volumes in the low physical activity group compared to the high activity group. Cortical thickness in the dorsolateral and orbitofrontal PFC were also significantly reduced in the low physical activity group compared to the high activity group. In the combined sample, greater overall physical activity levels showed a non-significant tendency with better performance on tests of verbal memory and social cognition. Together these pilot study findings suggest that greater amounts of physical activity may have a positive influence on brain health and cognition in first-episode schizophrenia patients and support the implementation of physical exercise interventions in this patient population to improve brain plasticity and cognitive functioning. (JINS, 2015, 21, 868–879)

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2015 

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