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From brain to body: exploring the connection between altered reward processing and physical fitness in schizophrenia.

Psychiatry Research 2024 March 29
Understanding the underlying mechanisms that link psychopathology and physical comorbidities in schizophrenia is crucial since decreased physical fitness and overweight pose major risk factors for cardio-vascular diseases and decrease the patients' life expectancies. We hypothesize that altered reward anticipation plays an important role in this. We implemented the Monetary Incentive Delay task in a MR scanner and a fitness test battery to compare schizophrenia patients (SZ, n = 43) with sex- and age-matched healthy controls (HC, n = 36) as to reward processing and their physical fitness. We found differences in reward anticipation between SZs and HCs, whereby increased activity in HCs positively correlated with overall physical condition and negatively correlated with psychopathology. On the other handy, SZs revealed stronger activity in the posterior cingulate cortex and in cerebellar regions during reward anticipation, which could be linked to decreased overall physical fitness. These findings demonstrate that a dysregulated reward system is not only responsible for the symptomatology of schizophrenia, but might also be involved in physical comorbidities which could pave the way for future lifestyle therapy interventions.

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