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Maurus, Isabel ORCID: 0000-0002-6208-5180; Roell, Lukas; Keeser, Daniel ORCID: 0000-0002-0244-1024; Papazov, Boris; Papazova, Irina; Lembeck, Moritz; Roeh, Astrid; Wagner, Elias ORCID: 0000-0002-7147-6167; Hirjak, Dusan ORCID: 0000-0003-1226-9800; Malchow, Berend; Ertl-Wagner, Birgit; Stoecklein, Sophia; Hasan, Alkomiet; Schmitt, Andrea; Meyer-Lindenberg, Andreas; Falkai, Peter (2022): Fitness is positively associated with hippocampal formation subfield volumes in schizophrenia: a multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging study. Translational Psychiatry, 12: 388. ISSN 2158-3188

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Hippocampal formation (HF) volume loss is a well-established finding in schizophrenia, with select subfields, such as the cornu ammonis and dentate gyrus, being particularly vulnerable. These morphologic alterations are related to functional abnormalities and cognitive deficits, which are at the core of the insufficient recovery frequently seen in this illness. To counteract HF volume decline, exercise to improve aerobic fitness is considered as a promising intervention. However, the effects of aerobic fitness levels on HF subfields are not yet established in individuals with schizophrenia. Therefore, our study investigated potential associations between aerobic fitness and HF subfield structure, functional connectivity, and related cognitive impact in a multiparametric research design. In this cross-sectional study, 53 participants diagnosed with schizophrenia (33 men, 20 women; mean [SD] age, 37.4 [11.8] years) underwent brain structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging and assessments of aerobic fitness and verbal memory. Multivariate multiple linear regressions were performed to determine whether aerobic fitness was associated with HF subfield volumes and functional connections. In addition, we explored whether identified associations mediated verbal memory functioning. Significant positive associations between aerobic fitness levels and volumes were demonstrated for most HF subfields, with the strongest associations for the cornu ammonis, dentate gyrus, and subiculum. No significant associations were found for HF functional connectivity or mediation effects on verbal memory. Aerobic fitness may mitigate HF volume loss, especially in the subfields most affected in schizophrenia. This finding should be further investigated in longitudinal studies.

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