The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the human brain in many psychological ways. A new study has found that the brains of teenagers who have gone through the period of Covid-19 lockdowns are showing signs of premature ageing. According to research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science, the stress of the Corona pandemic is causing adolescent brains to age prematurely by at least three years.
Scientists claim that as we age, changes in brain structure occur naturally. Both the hippocampus and the amygdala experience substantial growth in a child’s body between puberty and the early teenage years. Both regions of the brain control access to particular memories and aid in emotion regulation.
A Comparative Study
Researchers compared MRI scans of 81 teens in the US taken before the pandemic to 82 teens taken during the pandemic after the lockdowns were lifted. The research team discovered that physiological changes in the developing adolescent brain, such as cortex thinning as well as growth of hippocampus and amygdala, were stronger in the post-lockdown group of teenagers than in the pre-pandemic group, indicating that the brain grew older more quickly.
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Levels of Anxiety and Fear Increased
According to Ian Gottlieb, professor of psychology at Stanford University in the US and the first author of the research, the level of depression, anxiety, and fear in adolescents has increased compared to before the pandemic. But researchers are not sure about the long-term effects on their brains. It is not sure at this time if deteriorating mental health is caused by the brain’s rapid aging. Once more the researchers will scan every subject at the age of 20 to determine whether these alterations are long-lasting or if they will fade with time.
The comparison between the scans of the structure of the teenage brain before and after the pandemic and the documentation of notable alterations are the results of the first study. Before the pandemic, only instances of childhood stress, trauma, abuse, and neglect were associated with such alterations in brain age. These early life experiences can increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other long-term unfavorable effects in addition to making them more prone to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
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Significant changes are observed in the following parts of the brain:
Cortex: Associated with thinking, learning, reasoning, emotions, and consciousness
Hippocampus: useful for remembering things
Amygdala: associated with emotions and mental state