Physical activity helps improve cognitive function in women with psychosis
A 12-week circuit-training exercise intervention is a safe and feasible adjunct treatment in patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP), with potential benefits to certain domains of cognitive functioning especially in females, a study has shown.
In the multicentre, open-label intervention study, 91 outpatients with FEP (mean age 30 years; 65 percent male) received usual care plus a 12-week supervised circuit-training programme comprising high-volume resistance exercises, aerobic training and stretching. The primary study outcome of cognitive functioning was evaluated using Cogstate Brief Battery (processing speed, attention, visual learning, working memory) and Trailmaking A and B tasks (visual attention and task shifting).
The average exercise frequency was 13.5 times, with 48 percent of patients completing ≥12 sessions. After the intervention, significant improvements were observed in processing speed, visual learning and visual attention, all with moderate effect sizes (p<0.05). Exercise participation also produced a positive nonsignificant effect on working memory (p<0.07).
Stratified analyses showed a moderating effect of gender. Specifically, favourable improvements in processing speed, visual learning, working memory and visual attention were observed in women only. On the other hand, there was significant bivariate correlation between total training frequency and improvements in visual attention among men (p<0.05).
Researchers pointed out that the gender differences found in the present study may be explained by the clinical profile of the male participants, with a significantly higher proportion of males vs females indicated using illicit drugs. While there was lack of data on the type of illicit drugs used, cannabis use has been shown to be common in FEP. [JAMA Psychiatry 2016;73;292-297]
Furthermore, more males than females were previously admitted involuntarily to a psychiatric inpatient facility (57.1 percent vs 42.9 percent) and were diagnosed with schizophrenia (17 percent vs 12 percent). This suggests that men had a more impaired social function, as well as more entrenched symptoms and a worse overall symptom profile, according to researchers.