Adolescent Mental Health Study

Scientists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the University of Calgary are teaming up with the YMCA to study the effect of intensive aerobic activity on brain plasticity and as a potential new therapy for depression in adolescents and young adults.

The team will work together to determine the effect of exercise on the hippocampus – an area of the brain responsible for learning, memory and regulating a person’s response to stress. Research has shown that the size of the hippocampus is smaller in people suffering from depression than in those who are not. This pilot will examine whether exercise can increase the size and health of the hippocampus, and consequently reduce depressive symptoms.

Study participants between the ages of 16 and 18 years old will engage in a specially-structured exercise protocol that will take place at two YMCA locations: Saddletowne and South Health Campus. An important component of the pilot involves neuroimaging of the hippocampus using the community-funded 3 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner (3T MRI) at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. This will be carried out pre and post-exercise.

The pilot study will involve teens and young adults suffering from mild to moderate major depressive disorder who have not received treatment for their condition. Questions about the study can be emailed to: