How the Pandemic Is Changing Your Brain

Chronic stress can physically impact neural connections

To say that people are stressed out during the pandemic would be a gross understatement. What people are feeling isn’t acute stress — the kind that can motivate you in the best of times or force you to slow down in the worst of times — it’s chronic stress, the kind that weighs on you for weeks and months, opening the door to psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression. As senior staff writer and former brain scientist Dana G Smith writes in a terrific feature for Elemental, chronic stress can also change the brain itself.

Chronic stress causes the continuous release of the “stress hormone” cortisol into the blood, where it seeps into the brain. There, it has many downstream effects, one of which is clearing out connections in the brain known as synapses. Under normal circumstances, this process helps clean up unused or damaged synapses. But under periods of prolonged stress, it may destroy healthy or useful synapses as well.

This process can impair memory, cognitive processing, and the ability of the brain to control its own stress response. “So, in many ways,” says one expert interviewed by Smith, “these types of cellular responses can actually even make the stress worse, almost like in a positive feedback loop.”

Read more on Elemental:

--

--

--

A blog from Medium for Covid-19 news, advice, and commentary.

Recommended from Medium

The Unbearable Sensation of Being

The Success-Seeking Satnav Embedded in Your Brain…

Autism: Accessing the Unique Gifts of all our Children!

How To Train Your Brain To Remember Everything

The inner workings of the human mind

Awareness Consciousness in Causation and the Flow of Time

Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Percent

The Magic Tingles

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Coronavirus Blog Team

Coronavirus Blog Team

A real-time resource for news, advice, and commentary brought to you by Medium.

More from Medium

The Hidden Truth

What Can You Do When Nothing Else Works?

The Electric Health Paradigm

How to Find Your Values and Truly Know What Matters