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How Isolation Affects Your Brain In Children

How Isolation Affects Your Brain In Children

In childhood, being alone rewires it, possibly into adulthood. But the effects are reversible.

Almost all of us have experienced some degree of social isolation since the pandemic first began. Maybe you fell sick with COVID-19 and had to stay home in quarantine, or perhaps you isolated yourself due to your own health concerns or known exposure. 

While not everyone went into a strict sense of isolation, we were all removed from one another to a certain degree as areas locked down, and we stayed home for longer than most of us ever have in our lifetime. In reality, for some people, this actually proved to be a much-needed break. Let’s be honest. Work, school, and life with family and friends can get hectic. We do not always realize we need more time to rest. 

But for many people, the lock down, while necessary, was a semi-depressing time. It was hard to stay in. Not seeing family beyond our immediate members, and missing our friends and co-workers was tricky to endure. While it may seem like it was just our emotions that took a beating, science is now showing the effects go beyond this, at least when it comes to children. Of course, this does not mean we need to rush them back into school if that is not a place that protects them from the coronavirus. It is interesting to know what can happen, though. 

Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York have discovered that children who experience isolation could be damaging a key part of the brain that regulates social behavior. The good news is that, at least when studied in mice, this phenomenon was reversible. Not without a bit of work, however. 

Researchers studied what happened to male mice who were socially isolated for two weeks immediately after being weaned. (Presumably these time frames would be longer in humans, seeing as our lifespan is longer). The mice that were isolated in childhood had brains with neurons in their prefrontal cortex that failed to activate properly when they later socialized as adults. The study seemed to show that youth who are isolated for long enough can experience damage to the underlying circuitry of their brain. Thankfully, the mice were able to be rehabilitated. Once they underwent light stimulation or had drugs administered to them, they once again began to socialize normally. 

It is well known that loneliness is a threat to people’s mental health. No one wants to resort to artificial stimulation to make their brain work properly if they can avoid it. Phone your friends. Keep in contact with family, and form a social bubble that works for you until this is all over. It could be better for you than you know. 

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