After the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, your brain may need to re-adapt to a “normal” life

After the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, your brain may need to re-adapt to a “normal” life



With COVID-19 Vaccine is effective With the lifting of restrictions across the country, those who have been vaccinated and who have been staying at home are finally time to get rid of sweatpants and reappear from their Netflix cave. But your brain may not be so eager to return to your previous social life.

Facts have proved that social distancing measures are essential to slow the spread of COVID-19 around the world—— Prevent more than 500 million casesHowever, although necessary, the 15-month interval between each other has an impact on people’s mental health.

in a National survey Last fall, 36% of adults in the United States (including 61% of young people) reported feeling “severely lonely” during the pandemic. Statistics like this show that people are eager to enter social situations.

But if the idea of ??small talk during crowded happy hours sounds scary to you, then you are not alone. Nearly half of Americans are upset Regardless of the vaccination status, face-to-face interaction can be resumed.

So how can people be so lonely and yet so nervous to refill their social calendars?

Well, the brain is very adaptable.Although we cannot know exactly what our brain has experienced in the past year, neuroscientists like me Gain insight into how social isolation and resocialization affect the brain.

Social homeostasis-the need for social

Humans have an evolutionary innate social need-although they may not feel it when deciding between an invitation for dinner and a review of the “Hit River”.

From insects to primates, maintaining social networks is Key to survival In the animal kingdom. Social groups provide mating prospects, cooperative hunting, and protection from predators.

but Social homeostasis – The correct balance of social relations – must be satisfied. Small social networks cannot provide these benefits, while large social networks will intensify competition for resources and partners. Because of this, the human brain has developed specialized circuits to measure our relationships and make the right adjustments-like a social thermostat.

Social homeostasis includes Many brain regionsAnd in the center is Mesocortical limbic circuit – Or “reward system”. When you crave sweets, the same circuit will motivate you to eat chocolate, or swipe your card on Tinder when you crave… well, you get the idea.

Like these motivations, a recent study found Reduced social interaction can lead to social cravings – Produce patterns of brain activity similar to food deprivation.

So if people crave social connections as they crave food, what happens to the brain when you starve socially?

Your brain is in a state of social isolation

Scientists cannot push people into isolation and look inside their brains. Instead, researchers rely on laboratory animals to learn more about the wiring of the social brain.Fortunately, because the social bond is Essential in the animal kingdom, These same brain circuits are Cross-species discovery.

One prominent effect of social isolation is—you guessed it—increased anxiety and stress.

Many studies have found that removing animals from their cages Increase anxiety-like behaviors and cortisol, The main stress hormone.Human studies also support this, because people with Cortisol levels in small social circles are higher Anxiety-related symptoms similar to other socially deprived laboratory animals.

From an evolutionary perspective, this effect makes sense—an animal that loses herd protection must become Over-alert Make a living for yourself. It doesn’t just happen in the wild. A study found that self-describing ““Lonely” people are more alert to social threats Such as rejection or rejection.

Another important area of ??social stability is Hippocampus -The brain’s learning and memory center.A successful social circle requires you to learn social behaviors – such as Selflessness and cooperation -And identify friends from enemies.But your brain stores a lot of information and must Delete unimportant connectionsSo, like most high school Spanish-if you don’t use it, you will lose it.

Several animal studies have shown that even temporary adult isolation can damage both Social memory – It’s like recognizing a familiar face – and Working memory – It’s like recalling a recipe while cooking.

Isolated humans may be equally forgetful.Antarctic expedition has Shrinking hippocampus After just 14 months of social isolation.Similarly, adults with smaller social circles are more likely to Development of memory loss and cognitive decline In later life.

Therefore, humans may no longer roam in the wild, but social stability is still the key to survival. Fortunately, just like the brain’s adaptability to isolation, so too may re-socialize.

Your brain is re-establishing social connections

Although only a few studies have explored Reversibility of anxiety and stress related to isolation, They believe that resocialization can repair these effects.

For example, a study found that previously isolated marmosets Higher stress and cortisol levels first when re-socializing But it quickly recovered. The lovely thing is that animals that were once isolated even spent more time grooming their new partners.

Social memory and cognitive functions also seem to be highly adaptable.

mouse with mouse The study reported that although animals cannot recognize familiar friends immediately after short-term isolation, they will quickly recover their memories after socializing again.

People may also hope to get rid of the social distancing block.A recent Scottish study conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic found that residents have Cognitive decline during the most severe lockdown week But once the restrictions were relaxed, they were quickly restored.

Unfortunately, research like this is still rare. Although animal research provides a wealth of information, it may represent an extreme situation because people were not completely isolated last year. Unlike mice in cages, many mice in the United States have virtual game nights and Zoom birthday parties (we are lucky).

So gain strength through nervous elevator chats and annoying brain fog, because “non-social distancing” should soon reset your social homeostasis.

Karim Clark, Postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience, Virginia Tech

This article is reproduced from conversation Under a Creative Commons Source article.


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