COVID-19 often comes with a side of “brain fog”
A new study has found that a large number of people infected with COVID-19 have suffered from poorer memory and shorter attention spans months after recovering.
Researchers from New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai studied over 700 patients who tested positive to COVID-19, asking them to complete several tasks several months after they were first infected.
The tasks tested their cognitive function using “well-validated neuropsychological measures”, including their attention, working memory, memory recall and processing speed.
The team found a “relatively high” number of patients who experienced cognitive impairment after contracting the virus.
They reported that 133 patients’ brains were slower, 118 had shorter attention spans, and 170-178 had “slipperier” memories.
Patients who were hospitalised were also more likely to have impaired attention spans, and memory encoding and recall, in comparison to a group of participants who were outpatients and had a less severe reaction to being infected with COVID-19.
The researchers said that the findings were consistent with early reports of ‘brain fog’ among COVID-19 patients.
“The association of COVID-19 with executive function raises key questions regarding patients’ long-term treatment,” the researchers wrote in the study, published in JAMA Network Open.
With a high number of patients experiencing these symptoms, the team proposed that future work could study the underlying mechanisms causing these symptoms to occur, as well as ways for patients to rehabilitate and recover.
“Our findings suggest that a substantial proportion of patients may experience cognitive problems several months after COVID-19, which can contribute to significant functional disability,” Dr Jacqueline Becker, a clinical neuropsychologist and first author of the study, told Over60.
“Patients who are concerned should speak to their primary care physicians and perhaps request a referral to a neuropsychologist. It will be important to monitor any changes over time, as well as to rule out other potentially reversible causes that may be contributing to their cognitive dysfunction.”
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