Aerobic exercise and its effects on cognition in schizophrenia

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Schizophrenia is a severe neuropsychiatric disorder with incomplete remission because of negative and cognitive symptoms in a large proportion of patients. Antipsychotic medication is successful in modulating positive symptoms, but only to a lower extent negative symptoms including cognitive dysfunction. Therefore, development of innovative add-on treatment is highly needed. In this review, recent evidence from clinical studies reveals effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive deficits in schizophrenia patients.

Recent findings

First studies and meta-analyses on aerobic exercise in schizophrenia patients have shown effects on positive, negative, and global symptoms and cognitive domains such as global cognition, working memory, and attention. Underlying neurobiological mechanisms such as neuroplasticity-related synaptogenesis and neurogenesis have been identified in animal studies and possibly mediate effects of aerobic exercise on brain structure and function.

Summary

Different aspects of methods (e.g., endurance training versus yoga and Tai Chi), length and dose of the intervention, supervision of patients by sports therapists as well as maintenance of cognitive improvement after cessation of training have been raised by previous studies. However, minimal and most effective dosage of the intervention and mechanisms underlying changes in neuroplasticity need to be answered in future basic and large-scale randomized clinical trials.

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