Mental, Physical Exercise Helps Young People With Schizophrenia

By engaging in mental and physical exercise, young people with schizophrenia may be able to reverse many of the disease’s most debilitating symptoms.

Researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior claim that consistent mind and body workouts may trigger a “Miracle-Gro for the brain” that can repair neuron connections. Restoring these connections may help schizophrenia patients who have issues with memory, problem solving, processing speed and social perception - areas that can be severely compromised in people with the disorder.

"They tend to be the things that lead people with schizophrenia to go on disability and to become unable to work and to be socially isolated," said Keith Nuechterlein, a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. "Families go through a stage almost like mourning because their loved one changes so dramatically."

Exercising the mind and body

The researchers believe that mental activities like computer-based games can counter up to one-quarter of the deficits in the areas of memory, social cognition and thinking abilities. When combined with aerobic exercise, they claim that improvements to these symptoms can be attained rapidly.

"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," said Joe Ventura, a senior research psychologist at the university.

The study also claimed that assisting people with schizophrenia as soon as possible after their first initial breakdown is important because lasting improvements are most effective for those in early stages of the disease.

Source: University of California - Los Angeles

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