COVID-19 lockdowns may have triggered brain inflammation even in people who didn’t get infecting with the virus, research from Massachusetts General Hospital shows.
The societal and lifestyle disruptions caused by the pandemic may have triggered inflammation in the brain that can affect mental health, according to the study. The impacts manifest as symptoms including fatigue, brain fog and mental distress.
Scientists looked at brain imaging, behavioral tests and blood samples from 57 people before and 15 people after stay-at-home measures were in place.
After the lockdown, the participants had higher levels of two neuroinflammation markers. People who noticed mood changes and fatigue had higher levels of a protein that also indicates inflammation.
The evidence supports the notion that stress and brain inflammation can go hand-in-hand, noted senior author Dr. Marco Loggia, co-director of the Center for Integrative Pain NeuroImaging at MGH and Harvard Medical School. The new information can help treat the symptoms in many cases with exercise and possibly medication.
“This could have important implication for developing interventions for a broad number of stress-related disorders,” Loggia added.