COVID-19 : The Pandemic is changing our Brains | UPSC

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COVID-19 : The Pandemic is changing our Brains

COVID-19 : The Pandemic is changing our Brains

      HEADLINES:

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

      ISSUE: 

Whether you have contracted COVID-19 or not, your brain is likely to have changed over the past few months.

PANDEMIC IS CHANGING OUR BRAINS

PUBLISHED BY

  • In our new paper, published in Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, we have investigated how to best overcome the brain changes linked to the pandemic.

DISORDERS

The virus itself can cause a number of neurological problems, along with anxiety and depression.   

  • The isolation and worry caused by the pandemic can similarly alter our brain chemistry and cause mood disorders.

COVID-19 INFECTION

  • 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).

The virus may gain access to the brain via the forebrain’s olfactory bulb, which is important for the processing of smell.
 

  •  Loss of smell is a symptom in many patients with COVID-19.

OLFACTORY BULB

  • 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.

This includes the amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex and the hippocampus — which play a major role in emotion, learning and memory.

  • 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.

All these chemicals are known to be involved in attention, learning, memory and mood.

  • 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.

COVID-19 : The Pandemic is changing our Brains | UPSC

Lockdown has been stressful for many people.

  • 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.

Stress can also affect levels of brain serotonin and cortisol, which can affect our mood.

  • Eventually, these changes can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety.

BRAIN TRAINING

  • 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.

Exercise and mindfulness training — techniques that help us stay in the present — are helpful when it comes to combating brain stress.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • Those who have persistent or severe mental health symptoms may require clinical evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Gamified cognitive training can also help improve attention, memory function and increase motivation.

  • There are pharmacological and psychological treatments available, such as antidepressants or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Modern techniques such as wearable devices (activity trackers) and digital platforms (mobile apps)can be easily integrated into daily life, are promising.

  • 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.
     SOURCES:THE HINDU & PIB | COVID-19 : The Pandemic is changing our Brains

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