Cognitive impairment can caused by long COVID

Long COVID: the brain fog that won't go away.

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Long COVID, a condition affecting individuals who have recovered from the initial COVID-19 infection, continues to raise concerns as researchers uncover lingering impacts on brain function. Despite the passage of years since the initial infection, many individuals are experiencing persistent cognitive effects, adding to the complexities of the post-COVID recovery process.

This phenomenon has prompted researchers to delve deeper into understanding the long-term neurological consequences of the virus, further emphasizing the urgency to address and manage the lingering impacts on affected individuals’ brain health.

UK researchers have made a significant finding regarding long-term COVID-19 symptoms, including ‘brain fog,’ showing reduced cognitive performance up to two years after initial infection. In a King’s College London study, over 3,000 participants from the COVID Symptom Study Biobank were assessed across 12 cognitive tasks, testing memory, attention, reasoning, processing speed, and motor control.

Those who experienced COVID-19 symptoms for 12 weeks or more exhibited the most notable impact on test scores, comparable to the cognitive impairment associated with a 10-year increase in age. This study sheds light on the lasting neurological consequences of COVID-19, raising concerns about the persistent effects on brain health among affected individuals.

During the two rounds of testing, which occurred nine months apart, there was no notable improvement in test scores among participants. By the second round of testing, nearly two years had elapsed since their initial COVID-19 infection.

Upon closer examination, researchers found that individuals who felt fully recovered after their COVID-19 infection performed comparably to those who had never contracted the virus. On the other hand, participants who did not feel fully recovered following illness demonstrated lower task accuracy scores on average. This analysis sheds light on the varying cognitive impairment experienced by individuals based on their recovery status after COVID-19 infection.

Lead author Dr. Nathan Cheetham, Senior Postdoctoral Data Scientist at King’s College London, said,” The findings indicate that the impact of COVID-19 on mental processes, such as word and shape recall, is still detectable nearly two years after the initial infection in individuals experiencing long-term symptoms. However, the study revealed encouraging news that COVID-19 had no discernible effect on cognitive performance in individuals who felt fully recovered, even if they had experienced symptoms for several months. They could be considered as having ‘long COVID.”

Dr. Cheetham emphasized the importance of monitoring those individuals whose brain function is most affected by COVID-19 to understand the ongoing development of cognitive symptoms and provide necessary support toward recovery.

In conclusion, this prospective cohort study provides valuable insights into the lasting impact of COVID-19 on cognitive performance within a community-based cohort. Individuals experiencing long-term COVID-19 symptoms demonstrated persistent reductions in cognitive function, even up to two years after their initial infection.

The findings highlight the importance of continuous monitoring and support for those most affected by the virus’s neurological consequences. On a positive note, individuals who reported feeling fully recovered after their COVID-19 infection showed no detectable effects on cognitive performance. This study emphasizes the significance of understanding and addressing the cognitive implications of COVID-19 for long-term recovery and patient care.

Journal Reference:

  1. Nathan J. Cheetham, Rose Penfold, et al., The effects of COVID-19 on cognitive performance in a community-based cohort: a COVID symptom study biobank prospective cohort study. eClinicalMedicine. DOI:https:10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.102086.
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