Home / News / India /  Severe Covid-19 may age your brain by 20 years. Read here

A severe Covid-19 infection may cause cognitive impairment similar to that sustained with 20 years of ageing, between 50 and 70 years of age, a new study has found. 

The findings, published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, suggest that the impairment is equivalent to losing about 10 IQ points. 

The study analysed 46 Covid-19 patients who received in-hospital care, on the ward or intensive care unit, for six to ten months. Out of the total, 16 patients were put on mechanical ventilation during their stay in the hospital.

After detailed computerised cognitive tests, the researchers were able to detect that the patients showed slower and less accurate responses than what was expected for their age and demographic profile. 

Those patients who required ventilators and organ support scored even worse. 

By comparing the patients to 66,008 members of the general public, the researchers estimate that the magnitude of cognitive loss is similar on average to that sustained with 20 years of ageing, between 50 and 70 years of age, and that this is equivalent to losing 10 IQ points.

Survivors scored particularly poorly on tasks such as verbal analogical reasoning, a finding that supports the commonly-reported problem of difficulty finding words.

They also showed slower processing speeds, which aligns with previous observations post Covid-19 of decreased brain glucose consumption within the frontoparietal network of the brain, responsible for attention, complex problem-solving and working memory, among other functions.

While it is well established that people who have recovered from severe COVID-19 illness can have a broad spectrum of symptoms of poor mental health, the team found that acute illness severity was better at predicting the cognitive deficits.

The patients' scores and reaction times began to improve over time, but the researchers said that any recovery in cognitive faculties was at best gradual and likely to be influenced by a number of factors including illness severity and its neurological or psychological impacts.

The study adds to a growing body of research that suggests that people who have recovered from Covid-19, including patients with milder symptoms, may struggle with cognitive functions like problem-solving and could have difficulties finding words or possibly suffer “brain fog."



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