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Webinar - Let’s Play Ball: How Sex and Gender Effects Influence Sports Involvement, Hippocampal Volume, and Depressive Symptoms in Children

Date and Time

July 31, 2019



Sponsor(s): Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD)

On July 31, 2019 at 1 p.m. ET, the NIMH Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD) is hosting the first webinar in its 2019 series. Dr. Deanna Barch, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, will present “Let’s Play Ball: How Sex and Gender Effects Influence Sports Involvement, Hippocampal Volume, and Depressive Symptoms in Children.”

Recent studies have found that higher levels of exercise are significantly associated with lower depression among both adults and young people. One reason that exercise has a positive relationship to mental health may be because engagement in team sports has the potential to lead to increased social support. In addition, research suggests that exercise may modify the volume of the hippocampal, a region of the brain that has been found to be altered in depression. However, it is not clear whether this relationship emerges as early as preadolescence.

Dr. Barch’s talk will summarize research findings from a nation-wide sample of over 4,000 children ages 9-11 years old who completed surveys, interviews, and an MRI scan for the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study . Data was gathered on each child’s participation in 23 different sport activities. Dr. Barch will describe how sports involvement interacted with sex to predict depressive symptoms, and also how sports involvement was positively correlated with hippocampal volume in both boys and girls. Moreover, these relationships held even when correcting for family income, maternal education, race, ethnicity, age, and total brain volume. Dr. Barch’s findings will help illuminate a potential neural mechanism for the impact of exercise on the developing brain and the differential effects in girls versus boys.

Join us for this presentation on how the relationships between sports involvement, exercise, and mental health vary as males and females move through different developmental periods associated with variations in both biology (pubertal hormones), social relationships, and societal pressures.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Deanna Barch is currently chair and professor of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry. Her research program is focused on understanding normative patterns of functional brain connectivity across development as well as the mechanisms that give rise to the challenges in behavior and cognition found in illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression, utilizing behavioral, neuroimaging, and computational approaches.

She received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, completed her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. Dr. Barch is deputy editor at Biological Psychiatry and is on the editorial boards of Schizophrenia Bulletin, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, and Clinical Psychological Science. Dr. Barch is on the Scientific Board of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the One Mind Foundation, and the Stanley Foundation and on the Executive Committee of the Association for Psychological Science.

Dr. Barch’s research has been funded by the NIMH, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD, now renamed the Brain and Behavior Research Fund), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience. She was a member of the NIMH Scientific Council and is a member of the NIMH Research Diagnostic Criteria Committee. She is a fellow of both the Association for Psychological Science and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, and a member of the Society for Experimental Psychology.

More Information

This webinar series is intended for the public, interested NIH staff, and investigators conducting or interested in conducting research on mental health disparities, sexual and gender minority mental health, women’s mental health, minority mental health, and rural mental health.


To register for this webinar, visit