For a very long time, depression in adults was linked with the shrinking of a region of the brain that is pivotal for memory and the response to stress- the hippocampus. A new study reveals that depression is reduced in boys from the ages of 9-11 and their hippocampus enlarges if they participate in team sports.
Lead author of the study, Ms. Lisa Gorham said, “Our findings are important because they help illuminate the relationships between involvement in sports, volume of a particular brain region and depressive symptoms in kids as young as nine.”
“We found that involvement in sports, but not non-sport activities such as music or art, is related to greater hippocampal volume in both boys and girls, and is related to reduced depression in boys,” Gorham also said.
The results were more prominent in the children who took part in team sports related to structures like schools or any other regular teams rather than just casually playing.
The results obtained in this study were concluded after sampling 4,191 children ranging from the ages of 9 to 11. Information of participation of children in team sports and other related activities and symptoms of depression present in them was provided by the parents and the size of their hippocampus was provided by brain scans.
Surprisingly the results revealed that the relation between the size of hippocampus and involvement in team sports was also observed in girls but there was no further association with depression unlike found in the boys.
The authors said that it was important to note that the decrease in depression and increase in the size of hippocampus was related to the boys participation in team sports but it could also work the other way around that means that maybe the boys who were depressed took less part in team sports so these scenarios had significant implications for the understanding of childhood depression.
“The fact that these relationships were strongest for team or structured sports suggests that there might be something about the combination of exercise and the social support or structure that comes from being on a team that can be useful at preventing or treating depression in young people,” Gorham further added. “The findings raise intriguing possibilities for new work on preventing and treating depression in children.”