COVID-19 has big, long-lasting impact on the brain

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five adults may face long-term effects after recovering from COVID-19.

A recent study from the Indian Institute of Technology has brought new insights into this, particularly regarding the brain’s changes post-COVID-19.

For up to six months after their recovery, patients have been observed to experience various neurological symptoms.

These include trouble with thinking or concentrating, headaches, sleep disturbances, feelings of lightheadedness, unusual sensations like pins and needles, changes in smell or taste, and even mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

While it’s been known that COVID-19 can affect the heart, lungs, and other organs even in those who didn’t show symptoms initially, this research focuses specifically on the brain.

To do this, the team used a technique called susceptibility-weighted imaging, a type of MRI that’s really good at detecting changes in brain tissue.

This method works by looking at how different materials in the brain, like blood, iron, and calcium, react to magnetic fields.

It’s a useful tool for spotting various neurological conditions, including tiny bleeds, abnormal blood vessels, tumors, and the effects of strokes.

In their study, the researchers compared the brains of 46 people who had recovered from COVID-19 with 30 healthy individuals.

The scans were done within six months of the patients’ recovery. Among the long COVID patients, many reported feeling tired, having trouble sleeping, issues with attention, and memory problems.

The MRI results were quite revealing. Those who had recovered from COVID-19 showed significantly higher susceptibility values in parts of their brains, specifically the frontal lobe and brain stem, compared to the healthy group.

In the frontal lobe, the changes were mostly in the white matter – the part of the brain that’s crucial for processing and relaying information.

Key areas affected included parts responsible for language comprehension, various cognitive functions like attention and social processes, and more.

Additionally, there was a noticeable difference in the right ventral diencephalon area of the brain stem. This region is essential for a bunch of critical functions, including hormone release, sensory and motor signal relay, and regulating our sleep-wake cycle.

The researchers are planning to keep studying these patients over a longer period. They want to see if these brain changes stick around or if they get better with time.

This important study sheds light on the lasting impact COVID-19 can have on the brain, contributing to our understanding of the long-term effects of the virus.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19, death, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that low-sodium plant-based diets may prevent COVID-19 better, and results showing zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.

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