Prolonged stress can also alter the prefrontal cortex, the functional control center of the brain, and the amygdala, the center of fear and anxiety. Too many prolonged glucocorticoids can damage connections within and between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. As a result, the prefrontal cortex loses its ability to control the amygdala, leaving the fear and anxiety center to uncheck. This mode of brain activity (too much action in the amygdala and adequate communication with the prefrontal cortex) is not common in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), another condition that erupts during an epidemic, especially in frontline health-care. Workers.

The social isolation brought about by the epidemic was also detrimental to brain formation and function. Isolation is associated with decreased volume in the hippocampus and amygdala, as well as a decrease in attachment to the prefrontal cortex. Perhaps surprisingly, people living alone during the epidemic experienced higher rates of depression and anxiety.

Ultimately, damage to these areas of the brain affects people not only emotionally but also cognitively. Many psychologists attribute the effect of epidemic brain fog to intense stress on the prefrontal cortex, where it can impair concentration and functional memory.

Reverse time

So that’s bad news. The epidemic hit our brains hard. These negative changes ultimately reduce stress-induction in neuroplasticity – damage to cells and synapses rather than new growths. But do not despair; There is some good news. For many people, the brain can regain its plasticity spontaneously once the stress is gone. If life starts to return to normal, it can also come to our minds.

James Herman, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, says, “In many cases, the changes that occur with chronic stress actually diminish over time. “At the level of the brain, you can see the opposite effect of a lot of negative effects in this.”

“If you create a richer environment for yourself where you have more potential inputs and interactions and stimuli, [your brain] Will answer it. “

Rebecca Price, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh

In other words, just as your routine returns to its pre-epidemic state, so should your brain. As the vaccination continues, the stress hormones will return and the worry of dying (or killing someone else) from the new virus will decrease. And when you move into the world again, all the little things that were used to make you happy or to challenge you well will do it again, helping your brain to repair the lost connections once made by that behavior. For example, just as social isolation is bad for the brain, so social interaction is especially good for it. People with large social networks have greater proportions and connections to the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and other regions of the brain.

Even if you don’t feel like re-socializing yet, maybe push yourself a little. Don’t do anything that feels insecure, but there is an aspect to treating some mental illness “fake it until you fake it”. In clinical speech, it’s called behavioral activation, which emphasizes getting out of things and doing things you don’t want to. Initially, you may not experience the same pleasure or enjoyment as going to a bar or backyard barbecue, but if you stick with it, these activities often start to feel easier and can help alleviate feelings of depression. .

Rebecca Price, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, says that behavioral activation can work by enriching your environment, which scientists know leads to the growth of new brain cells, at least in animal specimens. “Your brain will react to the environment you present, so if you are in a deprived, not prosperous environment, because you are stuck at home alone, it will probably cause a slight reduction in the available path. “If you create a richer environment for yourself where you have more potential inputs and interactions and stimuli,” she said. [your brain] Will answer it. “So get out of your bed and check out a museum, botanical garden or outdoor concert. Your brain will thank you.

Exercise can also help. Prolonged stress lowers the levels of an important chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps promote neuroplasticity. Without BDNF, the brain is less able to repair or replace cells and attachments lost in chronic stress. Exercise increases BDNF levels, especially in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which at least partially explains why exercise boosts both knowledge and mood.

BDNF not only helps new synapses to grow, but it can also help build new neurons in hippocampus. For decades, scientists have believed that neurogenesis in humans stopped after adolescence, but recent research has shown signs of neuron growth in old age (although the issue is still being fiercely fought). Exercise has been shown over and over again to improve people’s mood, attention and comprehension, regardless of whether it works through neurogenesis; Some physicians also prescribe it to treat depression and anxiety. Time to get out of there and sweat.

Turn to treatment

There is a lot of variation in how people’s brains recover from stress and trauma, and not everyone will come back from an epidemic so easily.

“Some people seem to be more susceptible to getting into a chronic condition where they get stuck in something like depression or anxiety,” Price says. In these situations, treatment or medication may be needed.

Some scientists now believe that psychotherapy for depression and anxiety works at least in part by altering brain activity, and setting the brain on fire in a new pattern is the first step to being wired into a new pattern. The review paper in which the cortex received psychiatry for various anxiety disorders found that treatment several weeks after treatment was most effective in people who showed more activity in earlier times – especially when the field was controlling the brain’s fear center.

Other researchers are trying to change people’s brain activity by using video games. Adam Gazale, a professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, developed the first brain-training game to get FDA approval for its ability to treat ADHD in children. The game has also been shown to improve meditation periods in adults. In addition, EEG studies revealed a more functional association associated with the prefrontal cortex, suggesting an increase in neuroplasticity in this area.

Now Gazali wants to use the game to treat people with epidemic brain fog. “We think there’s an incredible opportunity here in terms of Covid recovery,” he says. “I believe the focus as a system can help with that width [mental health] Conditions and symptoms that people suffer from, especially due to covid. “