Brain game may predict your infection risk

Credit: Yura Fresh/Unsplash.

In a study from the University of Michigan and elsewhere, scientists found if your alertness and reaction time are see-sawing more than usual, you may be more at risk of a viral illness.

This is the first human study to show that one’s cognitive performance before exposure to a respiratory virus can predict the severity of the infection.

Subtle variations in everyday cognitive performance can signal changes in brain states that are known to increase the risk of illness such as stress, fatigue, and poor sleep.

In the study, the team wanted to measure cognitive function and explore whether it was predictive of immune performance after exposure to a respiratory virus.

They examined 18 healthy volunteers who took brain performance tests three times per day for three days and then were exposed to a cold virus known as human rhinovirus.

The software provided 18 measures of cognitive function including reaction time, attention, and rapid switching between numbers and symbols, which were combined to derive an index of variability.

The team found cognitive variability, measured with an at-home, digital self-test, turned out to be very predictive.

The team assessed viral shedding by using a saline solution to wash out the nasal passages of participants.

They determined the presence of viral infection and the quantity of virus in the fluid by growing the virus in cell culture.

As for symptoms, the team used the Jackson score, in which participants rated themselves from one to three on eight common cold symptoms.

The team is optimistic that smartphone use could eventually help identify times of heightened susceptibility to illness, monitoring cognitive indicators like typing speed and accuracy as well as how much time the user spends sleeping.

If you care about viruses, please read studies about wearable air samplers that could detect personal exposure to coronavirus, and herpes virus may cause Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about the leading cause of multiple sclerosis, and results showing a major cause of earlier death in men.

The study was conducted by Alfred Hero et al and published in Scientific Reports.

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