New MRI brain scans show that teen brains have matured beyond the years of their physical age (as much as three to four years) after the Covid-19 pandemic. This shows the importance of this time for teens’ brain development.
Scientists studying this topic were working on teen mental health before the pandemic hit, so they already had some ideas on what could have affected teens before and after. Researchers revealed that the pandemic was hard on teens, increasing anxiety and depression and prompting scientists to look at the changes that were being made to the brain.
Scientists took MRI scans from 64 teens after the pandemic. They compared the scans to different groups from before the pandemic, matched by their age and sex. The after-effects were the thickening of the hippocampus and amygdala, and the thinning of the cerebral cortex. All of these are a process of maturing for teens. This process usually takes time, but it was determined that the brain matured three to four years beyond their actual age.
After all the scans and knowledge of teens' mental health, scientists are still unclear as to what part of the pandemic adversely affected the brain. They also think the stress of transitioning to online school could be the cause. Another suspicion about the leading cause of the brain aging in teens is the violence or negligence that they could be exposed to.
Although scientists do not know exactly what led to brain maturity in teens, they have some ideas. Researchers still have open questions about the alterations and implications of aging, and will be doing more scans and tests in the future to find answers .
[Source: Science News]