COVID-19 : The Pandemic is changing our Brains
Coronavirus: The pandemic is changing our brains – here are the remedies
WHY IN NEWS:
Research suggests that the novel coronavirus may gain access to the brain via the forebrain’s olfactory bulb
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Health:Diseases
PANDEMIC IS CHANGING OUR BRAINS
- In our new paper, published in Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, we have investigated how to best overcome the brain changes linked to the pandemic.
- The isolation and worry caused by the pandemic can similarly alter our brain chemistry and cause mood disorders.
- In addition to mood disorders, common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, memory loss and problems with attention.
- There may be a number of reasons for these brain changes, including inflammation and cerebrovascular events (a syndrome caused by disruption of blood supply to the brain).
- Loss of smell is a symptom in many patients with COVID-19.
- As part of the system responsible for your sense of smell, the olfactory bulb sends information about smell to be further processed in other brain regions.
- The olfactory bulb is rich in the chemical dopamine, which is important for pleasure, motivation and action.
- It may be that COVID-19 alters the levels of dopamine and other chemicals, such as serotonin and acetylcholine, in the brain, but we can’t say for sure yet.
- These changes in the brain are likely responsible for the mood, fatigue and cognitive changes that are commonly experienced by COVID-19 patients.
- This in turn may underlie the reported symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in patients who have contracted the virus.
- But it’s not just people who have contracted the COVID-19 virus that have suffered from increased anxiety and depression during the pandemic.
- Excessive worry over contracting or spreading the virus to other family members can also change our brain chemistry.
- Repeated stress is a major trigger for persistent inflammation in the body, which can also affect the brain and shrink the hippocampus and therefore affect our emotions.
- Eventually, these changes can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- The good thing about the brain, however is incredibly plastic, which means it can compensate for damage.
- Even serious conditions such as memory loss and depression can be improved by doing things that alter the brain function.
- Those who have persistent or severe mental health symptoms may require clinical evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
- There are pharmacological and psychological treatments available, such as antidepressants or cognitive behavioural therapy.
- Activity trackers can monitor things like heart rate and sleeping patterns, indicating when the wearer may benefit from activities such as meditation, exercise or extra sleep.
- There are also apps that can help you reduce your stress levels yourself.
- As a society, we need to anticipate future challenges to our brain health, cognition and wellbeing.
- We should be utilising these techniques in schools to promote lifelong resilience starting at an early age.