Exercise therapy, cardiorespiratory fitness and their effect on brain volumes: A randomised controlled trial in patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls

Thomas W. Scheewe, Neeltje E.M. van Haren, Gayane Sarkisyan, Hugo G. Schnack, Rachel M. Brouwer, Maria de Glint, Hilleke E. Hulshoff Pol, Frank J.G. Backx, René S. Kahn, Wiepke Cahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations

Abstract

The objective of this study was to examine exercise effects on global brain volume, hippocampal volume, and cortical thickness in schizophrenia patients and healthy controls. Irrespective of diagnosis and intervention, associations between brain changes and cardiorespiratory fitness improvement were examined. Sixty-three schizophrenia patients and fifty-five healthy controls participated in this randomised controlled trial. Global brain volumes, hippocampal volume, and cortical thickness were estimated from 3-Tesla MRI scans. Cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed with a cardiopulmonary ergometer test. Subjects were assigned exercise therapy or occupational therapy (patients) and exercise therapy or life-as-usual (healthy controls) for six months 2. h weekly. Exercise therapy effects were analysed for subjects who were compliant at least 50% of sessions offered. Significantly smaller baseline cerebral (grey) matter, and larger third ventricle volumes, and thinner cortex in most areas of the brain were found in patients versus controls. Exercise therapy did not affect global brain and hippocampal volume or cortical thickness in patients and controls. Cardiorespiratory fitness improvement was related to increased cerebral matter volume and lateral and third ventricle volume decrease in patients and to thickening in the left hemisphere in large areas of the frontal, temporal and cingulate cortex irrespective of diagnosis. One to 2. h of exercise therapy did not elicit significant brain volume changes in patients or controls. However, cardiorespiratory fitness improvement attenuated brain volume changes in schizophrenia patients and increased thickness in large areas of the left cortex in both schizophrenia patients and healthy controls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-685
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Volume23
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Brain volume
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Cortical thickness
  • Exercise therapy
  • MRI
  • Schizophrenia

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