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Study shows frightening effect pandemic had on teen brains

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Dozens of published papers show kids’ levels of depression and anxiety skyrocketed during the pandemic. And now scientists say the stress and sadness aged their brains by almost three years. 

Scientists at Stanford University looked at brain scans of teenagers 15 to 18 years old before and during COVID. Scans showed teens suffered from significant structural decline in areas of their brains responsible for memory, concentration, emotion and judgment. 

“We found that adolescents assessed during the pandemic have neuroanatomical features that are more typical of individuals who are older compared to carefully matched peers assessed before the pandemic,” study authors write in the paper. “Adolescents assessed during the pandemic showed signs of advanced, accelerated brain maturation in the context of the pandemic. Indeed, adolescents assessed during the pandemic also had larger positive brain age gap estimates, indicative of older-appearing brains.”

The study was published Thursday in Biological Psychiatry Global Open Science.

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