Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Exercise, schizophrenia and growing your hippocampus

Neural plasticity is the brain's ability to change and adapt over time. People with schizophrenia show changes in their brains and it could be the case that they have less neural plasticity than other people. People with schizophrenia also have smaller hippocampi than other people. Exercise is known to stimulate growth in the hippocampus and a team of researchers led by Dr. Frank-Gerald Pajonk from Liebenburg in Germany set out to test this in a study of 32 people, 24 of whom had schizophrenia. Some of the participants did cycling to boost their fitness while the rest played table football. After three months those healthy controls who did exercise showed a 16% increase in the volume of their hippocampi while those people with schizophrenia who exercised showed a 12% increase; whereas the people who played table football's hippocampi actually shrank by 1%. The more people's fitness improved the greater the increase in the size of their hippocampus and the more people's hippocampi grew the more their scores for short-term memory improved.

Pajonk, Frank-Gerald ... [et al] - Hippocampal plasticity in response to exercise in schizophrenia Archives of General Psychiatry February 2010, 67(2), 133-143

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