New Study Claims COVID-19 Lockdown Might Have Physiologically Aged Teens' Brains - medtigo



New Study Claims COVID-19 Lockdown Might Have Physiologically Aged Teens’ Brains

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According to a study published in Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science, there is little doubt that the COVID-19 has impacted adolescent’s mental health and neurodevelopment. It is uncertain if young people who survived the virus and its consequences had the identical psychobiological make-up as their age- and gender-matched peers tested before the pandemic.   

The findings of this study support previous data that the pandemic has hurt young people’s mental health by demonstrating that adolescents evaluated during the pandemic have neuroanatomical features more typical of individuals who are either older or who experienced significant adversity as children.

Adolescents evaluated during the pandemic revealed symptoms of advanced cortical thinning in addition to larger-than-average bilateral hippocampus and amygdala sizes. These changes in brain volume, common during adolescence, might result from the pandemic’s influence on the rapid rate of teenage growth. Teenagers examined during the pandemic showed optimistic brain age gap estimations that were bigger than usual, indicating a higher cognitive age.  

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, chairman of pediatric neurology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, claims that the biggest issue is whether or not mental health concerns remain. This does not require anatomical explanation. According to Wiznitzer, who was not engaged in the study, the function is more essential than anatomy.

As the author puts it, “the clinical consequence here is the functional impact, the mental health state clinically and how it is working and how you are coping with it.”As a result, research appears that the pandemic has not only had a severe influence on adolescent mental health but has also hastened brain maturation.   

These findings have significant implications for researchers whose longitudinal studies must be halted owing to a pandemic. Researchers followed a group of roughly 200 teens for four years, separated by two years, to look at the long-term impact of early trauma on neurodevelopmental and clinical trajectories. They first anticipated that by just utilizing the ages of the participants, they would be able to evaluate patterns across all four-time points for which.

They would statistically adjust because some people would have had a long gap between evaluations than others due to the outage. It’s worth noting that this research assumes that 16-year-olds assessed after the shutdown are the same as 16-year-olds screened before the pandemic in terms of clinical functioning and neurodevelopment and may thus be grouped.

Their analysis leads us to dismiss this idea as unworkable. Because of the short-term impacts the outbreak likely has had on teens’ mental health and neurodevelopment, academics will need help interpreting longitudinal data from studies of normal development disrupted by the pandemic. 

Some investigations, including their own, have utilized a dummy-coded variable to statistically adjust for whether participants were examined before or during the COVID-19 pandemic, minimizing the possibility that age-related changes in brain maturation would be misread as epidemic effects.

However, since COVID-19 restrictions are constantly changing, additional covariates such as the time elapsed between when an individual is told to stay indoors and when an evaluation is conducted, as well as the nature and severity of the individual’s stress and experience during the pandemic, may be required (e.g., COVID-19 infection, upheaval in living situation, financial strain, etc.).  


It’s worth noting that the sample represents the racial and ethnic variety of the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as its members’ better socioeconomic standing. According to studies, the psychosocial and physiological effects of the pandemic were more severe among socially excluded groups, suggesting that sample composition determines age-related effects on brain shape (35). (For example, poorer socioeconomic status; 36-38). (For example, poorer socioeconomic status; 36-38).

To obtain a complete picture of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts, researchers must evaluate the disease’s impact on psychopathology and brain metrics in more prominent and more representative samples of teenagers.  

Future studies will need to identify whether these idiosyncrasies are merely transient side effects of the virus or whether they will come to characterize the present generation of young people. If these changes are long-lasting, it will be more challenging to account for and analyze data from this period.

When more researchers publish data on normative developmental trajectories of MRI-derived anatomical features, they will be allowed to compare COVID-affected neurodevelopmental trajectories with normative trajectories and, indeed, compute COVID-adjusted measures of brain maturity. 

However, this study emphasizes the importance of tracking and evaluating persons recruited and tested before the pandemic; this sort of research offers the best chance to explore the consequences of a global stressor. 

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