Mental, Physical Exercise Can Prevent Cognitive Degeneration in Young Schizophrenics

It is difficult to live with a mental health condition, especially with a disease like schizophrenia, a debilitating mental illness marked by deficits in memory, problem-solving, and speed of processing of thoughts and social intelligence. The disease is more prevalent in males than females, with men being diagnosed 1.4 times more frequently than women. When it comes to young schizophrenics, the disease can be highly distressing.

Offering hope to young schizophrenics, a recent study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) devised a new technique for ending mental and physical issues associated with schizophrenia. The study suggested that both mental and physical exercise can significantly repair the brain damage. Although antipsychotic medications can mitigate symptoms like delusions and hallucinations associated with schizophrenia, they are least effective in reversing the less familiar brain-based problems that accompany the illness. In fact, these problems can be more crippling for a schizophrenic.

The study, led by Keith Nuechterlein, a professor at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, found that rigorous exercise can immensely help schizophrenics and prevent deterioration of their mental faculties.

Various studies have shown that computer-based brain games can help reverse one-quarter to one-third of the deficits in the areas of memory, thinking skills and social cognition of schizophrenics. Nuechterlein said the benefits can go up dramatically when the brain games are used in conjunction with aerobic exercise.

Physical exercise releases brain protein that improves cognitive performance

Nuechterlein and his colleagues conducted a 10-week long study on 16 young adults who had recently experienced their first schizophrenic episode. Nine participants were made to take part in a computerized course of four hours/week of neurocognitive training for perception and memory skills for five weeks and then four hours/week of social cognitive training for emotional intelligence for five weeks.

The remaining seven, apart from receiving the same type of skill-based training, also undertook an additional four sessions a week of aerobic exercise, totaling 150 minutes. They were made to wear monitors to ensure that they exercised in their target aerobic zone.

In the second study, lasting six months, the researchers monitored 32 participants who had just experienced their first episode of schizophrenia and made them participate in the same battery of tests as in the pilot study for four hours a week. Half of them exercised profusely, apart from participating in mind games.

The researchers found that the cognitive performance of the nine participants (from the first study) who only completed brain training did not improve by the end of the study. But the remaining seven participants who were also a part of a rigorous exercise regime, showed a significant improvement in their cognitive performance.

In the second study, though they expected to see improvements among those who exercised, they were taken aback by the magnitude of the results. Among those who exercised, their performances on the series of cognitive tests showed three times higher improvements than among those who did not.

The improvements in the exercising participants were attributed to a brain protein called brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF), which is released during aerobic exercise. The researchers believed that BDNF stimulates the hippocampus — the brain’s center of learning and long-term memory and from where new neurons shoot up. The chemical is also found to optimize connections between neurons, which eventually lead to enhanced learning and memory.

Senior research psychologist at the Semel Institute Joe Ventura said, “It’s looking like exercising the body along with the mind has the potential to alter the course of schizophrenia, especially if the treatment is applied early in the disorder.”

Seeking treatment

In case of schizophrenia, early intervention is very important to prevent matters from exacerbating. One should seek treatment from schizophrenia treatment centers without any delay. The schizophrenia treatment in California, especially the schizophrenia treatment in Los Angeles is counted among the best in the country.

If a loved one is suffering from schizophrenia and you are looking for schizophrenia disorder treatment in California, call at our 24/7 helpline number 866–954–0529 for immediate assistance. The Sovereign Mental Health Services excels in providing world-class treatment for various mental health conditions.

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