DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — A recent study of teens found that the stress of the pandemic has physically aged their brains.
The brains of teenagers studied after pandemic shutdowns were lifted appeared years older than teens who were studied before the pandemic, according to new findings from Stanford University.
Dr. Fadi Tayim, Clinical Neuropsychologist at Miami Valley Hospital, said that emotions such as depression, anxiety, social isolation and agitation were used as a metric for biomarkers to measure brain size.
“From the study, it sounds like they were doing what we call longitudinal studies, so serial imaging over the course of years,” Tayim said.
“What they found was that those who were at the beginning of the pandemic developed larger hippocampi, which are the brain’s memory center, but connected to that is the amygdala, which is our fight or flight, or emotion regulation center. What they saw was a larger fight or flight memory center, but a smaller cortex, which is the actual covering of our brain responsible for executive functions.”
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for focusing one’s attention, predicting the consequences of one’s actions, anticipating events in the environment, Impulse control, managing emotional reactions and planning for the future.
“The pandemic itself, I think it hit teens a lot harder than people thought originally,” Tayim said. “There’s a lot of changes that have happened for us as adults, but that does translate to teenagers as well, with their lack of social support. Not being in school, not being able to go shopping or the mall or to the movies. These are all milestones that we’ve all been able to have as adults, but teenagers, not so much, at least in the past 2 years.”
According to Tayim, based on studies on those who have chronic anxiety, depression and PTSD, it is known that structural brain changes can be reversed with adequate therapy as well as other social supports in place.