More or less, the pandemic has proven to be psychologically difficult for many. Maybe worse for young people.
Now a new study from the US shows just how bad the mental toll can be.
Scientists have noticed that the brains of adolescents have changed within a short period of time.
The stress and loneliness that many felt led to a form of aging of the young brains. You must have previously seen similar changes in children exposed to violence or failure at home.
– We know that the epidemic has negatively affected the mental health of young people. But we didn’t know that this would have physical effects on the brain, says Ian Gottlieb in one of them press release.
He is a professor and junior author the study.
‘Older’ teenage brains found
Our brains naturally change as we age.
During puberty, both the hippocampus and the amygdala increase in size. These are areas that, among other things, control memories and emotions.
By studying images of teens’ brains, taken before and during the pandemic, researchers have found differences in these areas.
The first surveys were conducted in 2016, while the last surveys were conducted in 2022.
In the study, inequalities of gender, age, puberty, race, and Social and economic situation among the participants.
However, the results showed that brain aging among the children examined during the epidemic progressed faster. In less than a year, these teens’ brains got three years “older”.
I don’t know what could happen
The researchers also noted that the mental health of the group examined during the pandemic was worse compared to the other participants.
They are still not sure that mental problems are the cause of the structure change in the brain. They also don’t know if the damage is permanent.
Because what happens if the brain remains older than the children’s original age?
It is also not clear, the researchers explained.
For an 80-year-old, one would expect such changes to occur perceptual Problems. But what that means for a 16-year-old is hard to say.
The study had to be changed
This study was not really intended to look at the consequences of COVID-19.
Because before the pandemic, Gottlieb and his colleagues recruited a group of children and young adults to take part in a long-term study of depression during adulthood.
But when the virus came, they could not carry out the regular and planned operations MRI scans on youth.
– Therefore, we had to restart nine months after the start of the project, he explains.
However, he had to make good use of the work already done. Without this, they would not have found serious changes.
Michael Thomas is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience. Works at Birkbeck University in London. to the newspaper Watchman He says the findings in the new study are important.
This is interesting data showing that the pandemic may have had a significant impact on adolescents. large enough to be reflected in the structure of the brain.
But the professor stresses that not much is known about the relationship of the size of structures in the brain to behavior.
These kinds of brain measurements don’t tell us enough about the detailed circuits that control behaviour, he tells the British newspaper.
Young people will follow as well
Still, the researchers behind the study believe the findings could have great significance for the future.
Children who have suffered from COVID-19 do not need to be in the same neurological condition as children before them. But it will not be easy to dismiss such differences. The epidemic is global and there is no one who has not experienced it. That’s why there was no real control group, Gottlieb says.
The researchers will now follow this group of young adults further. They should look carefully at how the participants’ mental health has evolved over the years.
“Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff.”