Long COVID may bring long-lasting brain function change

Credit: Doğukan Şahin / Unsplash

A recent study has found that people who had COVID-19 may experience persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as problems with memory, concentration, and fatigue.

The research suggests that these individuals may have abnormal brain activity during memory tests.

The study involved 29 people who had COVID-19 an average of seven months earlier and had at least one ongoing neuropsychiatric symptom.

Nine of these people were hospitalized for COVID-19. The post-COVID group was compared to 21 people with no history of COVID-19 who were of similar age, health status, and vaccination status.

All participants completed tests that evaluated thinking and memory skills, emotional health, and movement, as well as measures for symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and pain.

They also had functional MRI brain scans while they performed three tasks to evaluate their working memory. The scans showed which areas of the brain were active during the tests.

The team found that people who had COVID-19 had less activity in brain regions normally used for memory tasks, but more activity in other areas of the brain.

This abnormal brain activity occurred during memory tests.

However, people who had long COVID had greater brain activation on a working memory task compared to people without prior COVID-19 infections.

The study does not prove that COVID-19 caused the brain changes. It only shows an association.

Despite these changes and the ongoing complaints of problems with memory, concentration, and fatigue, people who had COVID-19 had cognitive test scores similar to those who never had a history of COVID-19.

However, the post-COVID group did have poorer scores on tests of dexterity and motor endurance than the non-COVID group.

They also reported more negative feelings, such as anger and sadness, and more stress and lower scores for life satisfaction, as well as meaning and purpose.

In addition, they had higher scores for depression, anxiety, fatigue, and pain.

The findings suggest that the brains of people who had COVID-19 may compensate for their deficits by reorganizing the networks to maintain their performance.

However, the reorganization of the brain may come at a cost. It may lead to neuropsychiatric symptoms and a reduction in quality of life.

A limitation of the study was that it was conducted mainly during the delta variant phase of the pandemic in the United States.

Therefore, the results do not necessarily show whether newer coronavirus variants may affect the brain similarly.

Additionally, since antibody testing was not performed on those who reported no prior COVID-19, it is possible that they had prior infections with no symptoms.

In conclusion, the study highlights the potential long-term consequences of COVID-19, particularly for those who experienced severe symptoms or hospitalization.

The findings suggest that even those who had mild cases of COVID-19 may still experience neuropsychiatric symptoms and changes in brain activity.

Further research is needed to understand the full extent of the impact of COVID-19 on the brain and to develop effective treatments for post-COVID neuropsychiatric symptoms.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about people who are 5 times more likely to get COVID-19, and zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that cranberries could help boost memory, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The study was conducted by Linda Chang et al and published in Neurology.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.