Schizophrenia has a population incidence of 1%, but it is the 9th leading cause of disability worldwide. Individuals with schizophrenia display a broad range of cognitive deficits that have been identified as major determinants of poor daily functioning and disability, thus representing a serious public health concern. Current pharmacological and cognitive remediation treatments offer limited to modest efficacy in improving these deficits. However, data from animal and human research strongly support the positive influence of Aerobic Exercise (AE) on cognitive functioning. As individuals with schizophrenia typically display cognitive deficits along with a highly sedentary lifestyle, and preliminary evidence suggest that AE training is both feasible and effective in increasing aerobic fitness in this population, it is reasonable to hypothesize that AE may also improve cognitive functioning. However, this association has hardly been investigated in schizophrenia. To elucidate this putative link, we propose to evaluate the influence of AE on cognitive functioning in schizophrenia using a single-blind, randomized clinical trial. Outpatient individuals with schizophrenia (n=48) receiving treatment at a large academic medical center in New York City will be randomly assigned to Aerobic Exercise (AE) training or Treatment As Usual (TAU). Participants in the AE training will undergo a 12-week, 3 times per week, 1-hour AE sessions at the medical center. All patients will receive appropriate pharmacological and counseling treatment. Assessments of neurocognitive and daily functioning abilities, along with symptom severity, and physiological and behavioral measures of aerobic fitness will be completed before and after the 12-week program by raters blind to treatment status. This study will allow determining the putative positive influence of AE on cognitive and daily functioning in individuals with schizophrenia.
Individuals with schizophrenia suffer from cognitive impairments that have been identified as major determinants of poor functioning and disability. Aerobic Exercises (AE) have been shown to improve cognition in healthy individuals, but their influence in schizophrenia have not been studied. Elucidating the link between AE and cognition in schizophrenia may lead to development of novel behavioral treatments targeting cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.
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