In a study that highlights the impacts of Covid on a person’s mental function, researchers found brain damage months after Covid infection, especially the area of the brain associated with smell, while the brain seemed to have aged a decade and reduced in size.
In the research by Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging at the University of Oxford, the changes were linked to cognitive decline and impacting the nervous system. The results show that Covid-19 will exacerbate the global burden of dementia, an estimation of $1.3 trillion in 2020.
SARS-COV-2 virus is already known to attack the lungs while also causing myriad neurologic complications. Long-term effects of this pathogen virus are much drastic including, impaired concentration, headache, sensory disturbances, depression, and psychosis. Further findings of the study found that the impaired olfactory cue in Covid patients is caused by direct viral damage or even inflammation spurred by the body’s immune system. This is represented as grey matter reduction visible in brain scans, which, a neuropharmacologist at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne, Leah Beauchamp says, is ” really concerning.”
Brain scans of infected patients in the study revealed a 0.2%-to-2% greater reduction in brain size along with a greater cognitive decline after performance evaluation. The reduction of size was quite subtle and not apparent to the naked eye. A 2% reduction of brain size is equal to 10 years of aging. Neurologists are now looking at blood and central nervous system samples to determine why these changes occurred.
Gilbert H. Glaser professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine, Serena Spudich said that recent research has discovered plasticity of brain connectivity and structure, which means there could be a renewal of damaged neuronal pathways, resulting in full recovery of patients. Covid patients with severe symptoms and who were admitted to the hospital showed stronger and widely distributed effects on the brain. Neurologist and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center, Joanna Hellmuth says, ” Future research efforts can help us understand if these brain changes are clinically relevant, and if they associate with specific neurological issues after Covid.”