Study Suggests Covid-19 Infection Could Age Brain, Reduce Cognition

Henrietta Strickland
October 29, 2020

"People who had recovered, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits", the report read.

The study, led by Adam Hampshire, a doctor at Imperial College London, suggests the cognitive deficits can linger for months.

Coronavirus can significantly impact brain function, causing mental decline equivalent to the brain aging 10 years, according to an alarming new study.

The researchers, from the University of Cantabria, in Santander, Spain, said their findings point to identifying and treating vitamin D deficiency in those most at risk for COVID-19, "such as the elderly, patients with comorbidities, and nursing home residents, who are the main target population for the COVID-19", according to their news release.

The examine used cognitive checks - corresponding to remembering phrases or becoming a member of dots on a puzzle - which can be typically used to evaluate mind efficiency in illnesses like Alzheimer's. All the while, the brain is being tested. The findings, which have yet to be reviewed by other experts, were published online on the MedRxiv website.

The cognitive deficits were "of substantial effect size", particularly among people who had been hospitalised with COVID-19, the researchers said, with the worst cases showing impacts "equivalent to the average 10-year decline in global performance between the ages of 20 to 70".

The findings of the study however may not be entirely consistent or may be lacking, some professors suggest.

COVID-19 is known to negatively impact cognitive ability in a significant number of people who have become infected.

Joanna Wardlaw, a professor of applied neuroimaging at Edinburgh University, says any effects of the virus on cognition may be short term.

Derek Hill, a professor of medical imaging science at University College London, told Reuters that numerous people who participated in the study self-reported having been infected with COVID-19 and did not necessarily receive a positive test.

And, although they didn't establish an association between vitamin D deficiency and the severity of COVID-19, the study's authors noted that the group of hospitalized patients who had been taking oral supplements prior to admission had slightly more favourable outcomes than those who didn't take supplements before they were admitted to hospital, including lower ferritin levels, a decreased need for the immunosuppressive drug tocilizumab, and lower ICU admissions.

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