Researchers have been slowly accumulating newer and significant insights about the impact of COVID-19 on the body and brain. These discoveries have raised worries about the coronavirus.
Brain Imaging Data
Initial large-scale research on neurological problems in people who have experienced COVID-19 received a lot of interest from the scientific community in August 2021.
The researchers used data from the UK Biobank, a database that comprises brain imaging data from over 45,000 people (about twice the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden) in the UK dating back to 2014. This indicates that every one of those individuals had baseline data and brain imaging before the epidemic, which is critical.
The study evaluated the brain imaging data before bringing people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 back for more brain scans. They compared COVID-19 patients to participants that did not have COVID-19, precisely matching the groups depending on age, sex, baseline test date, and study site, as well as common illness risk factors including health characteristics and socioeconomic level.
They discovered significant changes in gray matter between individuals who had been infected with COVID-19 or those who have not. Most of the brain's neuronal cell bodies are found in grey matter, which includes brain areas involved in muscle control and sensory perception, such as sight and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making, and self-regulation.
Researchers separated the people who had severe disease that requires hospitalization, from those who had lesser COVID-19. The outcomes were the same. That is, even when the illness was not severe enough to warrant hospitalization, patients infected with COVID-19 exhibited a decrease of brain volume.
Lastly, researchers looked at impact on the cognitive function and discovered that people who had COVID-19 were slower at processing information than those who had not.
Months After Infection from Covid 19 Shows Similar Impairments
Four out of five of the 57 Americans in a study who received therapy after being hospitalized with COVID-19 had mild to severe cognitive deficits. More than half of the participants showed problems with working memory, and two-fifths had issues with processing speed, split attention, and switching between mental activities.
Patients who have recovered from different coronaviruses have shown similar impairments. Dementia was shown to be prevalent in the acute stages of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory disease (MERS), and COVID-19, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2020.
More than 15% of patients who were followed up with six weeks to 39 months (about 3 and a half years) later experienced sleep problems, mood swings, difficulty focusing, poor memory, and other mental issues.
Based on this accumulating body of data, British researchers predicted in March that healthcare systems will experience an "influx of patients with psychiatric and cognitive problems who were otherwise healthy prior to COVID-19." They encouraged clinicians to undertake comprehensive cognitive assessments for anybody experiencing new neurological symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 infection.
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