New research has indicated that for some individuals – even those who have survived being infected with SARS-CoV-2 – social and lifestyle disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic lead to brain inflammation. which may affect mental health.
The study, which was conducted by a team led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), is published in ‘Brain, Behavior and Immunity’. In addition to a staggering number of infections and deaths, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant social and economic disruptions, affecting the lives of a large portion of the world’s population in many ways. In addition, since the start of the pandemic, the severity and prevalence of symptoms of psychological distress, fatigue, brain fog, and other conditions have increased significantly in the United States, including in people who have not been infected with SARS-CoV-2. Huh.
To get a better understanding of the pandemic’s effects on brain and mental health, the researchers analyzed brain imaging data, conducted behavioral tests, and collected blood samples from several uninfected volunteers – 57 before and 15 before lockdown/staying at home. Following measures were implemented to limit the spread of the pandemic.
After lockdown, study participants had brain elevated levels of two markers of neuroinflammation – translocator protein (measured using positron emission tomography) and myoinositol (measured using magnetic resonance spectroscopy) compared to pre-lockdown participants. performed. Blood levels of two inflammatory markers – interleukin-16 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 – were also elevated in post-lockdown participants, although to a lesser extent.
Participants who reported a greater burden of symptoms related to mood and mental and physical fatigue showed higher levels of translocator protein in certain brain regions than those who reported little or no symptoms. Furthermore, high post-lockdown translocator protein levels correlated with the expression of several genes involved in immune functions.
“While COVID-19 research has seen an explosion in the literature, the impact of pandemic-related social and lifestyle disruptions on brain health among uninfected people has been explored,” said lead author Ludovica Brusaferi, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow. he said. MGH and Harvard Medical School. “Our study demonstrates an example of how pandemics have affected human health beyond the effects directly caused by the virus.”
MGH and co-director of the Center for Integrative Pain Neuroimaging at Harvard Medical School, senior author Marco L. Loggia, PhD, noted that acknowledging the role of neuroinflammation in the symptoms experienced by many during the pandemic could point to potential strategies to reduce them. “For example, behavioral or pharmacological interventions that are thought to reduce inflammation — such as exercise and certain medications — may be helpful as a means of reducing these bothersome symptoms.”
Loggia said the findings provided further support to the notion that stressful events may be accompanied by brain swelling. “This could have important implications for developing interventions for a wide number of stress-related disorders,” he said.
First published:February 23, 2022, 5:16 pm