May 24, 2022

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Severe COVID-19 impact on cognition is equivalent to 20 years of brain aging

Severe COVID-19 impact on cognition is equivalent to 20 years of brain aging



 

Study: Severe COVID-19 impact on cognition is equivalent to 20 years of brain aging.

A new study presents the most rigorous investigation yet of the long-term cognitive impact of severe COVID-19.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, found persistent cognitive deficits in hospitalized patients, equivalent to a decline consistent with 20 years of brain ageing.

The new study, published in the journal EClinical Medicine, looked at 46 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19. Sixteen of these patients required mechanical ventilation during their hospital stay.

 

Severe COVID-19 impact on cognition is equivalent to 20 years of brain aging

 

About six months after the acute infection, the participants completed a series of complex cognitive assessments. Each COVID subject was paired with 10 age- and demographically matched healthy control subjects.

 

Senior author David Menon explained: “Cognitive impairment is common in a variety of neurological disorders, including dementia, and even conventional aging, but the patterns we’re seeing — the cognitive ‘fingerprint’ of COVID-19 — are consistent with all of them. different.”

 

These COVID patients responded more slowly to the task, and their responses were less accurate than matched controls. More specifically, COVID patients performed poorly on “verbal analogical reasoning” tasks designed to test specific word-based cognitive domains of reasoning.

 

Severe COVID-19 impact on cognition is equivalent to 20 years of brain aging

 

“At the neurological level, this pattern of damage is consistent with observations of subacute hypometabolism within the frontal system following COVID-19 disease, which are known to perform these tasks,” the scientists explained in the new study. Called up in different combinations and configurations.”

 

The study found that the magnitude of these cognitive deficits correlated significantly with the severity of each patient’s acute illness. Those with severe COVID who required ventilation in the hospital showed the most pronounced cognitive decline.

 

On average, the studies calculated the extent of cognitive deficits to be equivalent to about 20 years of aging. Thus, a 50-year-old with severe COVID-19 had similar cognitive test scores when hospitalized as a 70-year-old.

 

These findings raise two big questions that researchers don’t yet have good answers to. What specifically caused these persistent cognitive deficits, and did patients regain their cognitive abilities over an extended period of time?

 

The researchers hypothesized a potential cause, noting that these cognitive problems are unlikely to be the result of SARS-CoV-2 infiltrating the brain, although some previous studies have found this to be possible.

Instead, the most plausible explanation at the moment is that severe COVID causes brain damage due to interruption of oxygen supply to the brain and clotting or bleeding during acute illness.

Excessive immune responses are also suspected to play a role in the persistent cognitive deficits seen in people who have become severely ill.

 

So, will things get better over time? Menon said his team saw small signs of improvement in some patients after long-term follow-up, but any cognitive recovery is likely to be slow and gradual at best.

 

“We followed some patients up to 10 months after their acute infection, so we were able to see a very slow improvement,” Menon said. “It’s not statistically significant, but at least it’s moving in the right direction.” But some of these people will likely never fully recover.”

 

A study published earlier this year by researchers at the University of Oxford found that subjects experiencing milder COVID-19 symptoms had mild cognitive impairment within six months of acute infection.

In addition to these new findings, researchers are beginning to have a clearer picture of the scope of the impact of COVID-19 infection on cognition.

 

Adam Hampshire, lead author of the new study, said the findings suggest that large numbers of COVID survivors likely experienced significant problems in the months following acute infection.

As vaccinations and more complex treatments begin to reduce the fatal impact of COVID-19, it will be critical to focus on survivors who experience the long-term chronic effects of this new disease.

 

Hampshire said: “In England alone, around 40,000 people have gone through intensive care with COVID-19, and many others are very sick but not hospitalised. This means that there are a large number of people who are still many months later. Experiencing cognitive issues. We urgently need research on what can be done to help these people.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new study was published in the journal eClinicalMedicine .

Severe COVID-19 impact on cognition is equivalent to 20 years of brain aging

(source:internet, reference only)


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