Coronavirus can significantly impact brain function, causing mental decline equivalent to the brain aging 10 years, according to an alarming new study.
A study of more than 84,000 people in the UK found that the virus left even those deemed recovered with “chronic cognitive consequences” that it compared to dropping 8.5 IQ points.
“People who had recovered, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits,” the study published on MedRxiv said.
“The deficits were broad, affecting multiple cognitive domains,” the researchers warned in the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed.
The study used cognitive tests — such as remembering words or joining dots on a puzzle — that are often used to assess brain performance in diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The cognitive deficits were “of substantial effect size” and “scaled with symptom severity,” especially those hospitalized, but also “evident amongst those without hospital treatment,” the study said.
A member of the medical staff speaks to a patient who is treated with a helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center.Go Nakamura/Getty Images
Imperial College London doctor Adam Hampshire, who led the research, told the Times of London that it was a “large enough difference” to “notice an impact on the ability to cope with your normal job and everyday life.”
“The results align with the ‘brain fog’ reported by many people who, even months after recovery, say they are unable to concentrate on work or focus how they did before,” he told the UK paper.
The study called the findings a “clarion call for more detailed research.”
Other experts not involved in the study warned that the results should be viewed with some caution — especially because the study did not record before-and-after cognitive test scores.
“The cognitive function of the participants was not known pre-COVID, and the results also do not reflect long-term recovery — so any effects on cognition may be short-term,” Joanna Wardlaw, a professor of applied neuroimaging at Edinburgh University, told Reuters.
Derek Hill, a professor of medical imaging science at University College London, described the results as an “intriguing” but “inconclusive” piece of research into the effect coronavirus can have on the brain.
With Post wires