Summary: People with long COVID have abnormal brain activity on memory tests, months after their initial COVID-19 infection, with less activity in regions normally used for memory tasks, but more activity in other areas of the brain.
Although people who had COVID-19 had similar cognitive test scores to those who never had a history of coronavirus, those who had long COVID had greater brain activation on a memory task of work compared to people without previous COVID-19 infection.
- People with long COVID who have persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms showed abnormal brain activity months after COVID-19 infection on memory tests.
- People who had COVID-19 had similar cognitive test scores to people who never had a history of COVID-19, but people who had long COVID had greater brain activation on a memory task of work compared to people without previous COVID-19 infection.
- The study does not prove that COVID-19 caused the brain changes, and a limitation of the study was that it was conducted primarily during the delta variant phase of the pandemic in the United States, so the results do not necessarily show whether new coronavirus variants can affect the brain in the same way.
Months after COVID-19, previously infected people with persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms had abnormal brain activity on memory tests, with less activity in brain regions normally used for memory tasks, but more activity in other areas of the brain.
Despite these changes and ongoing complaints of problems with memory, concentration and fatigue, people with COVID-19 had cognitive test scores similar to those who never had a history of COVID-19.
However, people who had long COVID had greater brain activation on a working memory task compared to people without previous COVID-19 infections.
The study does not prove that COVID-19 caused the brain changes. It shows only one association.
“The greatest activity occurred outside of the normal working memory brain network, where such changes are often seen in brain-injured patients,” said study author Linda Chang, MD. , MS, from the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore.
“These people who had COVID-19 had symptoms of fatigue and pain, and developed mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, with deficits in the brain’s default mode network and changes in brain activities in alternate brain regions to maintain function.”
The study involved 29 people who had COVID-19 an average of seven months earlier and who had at least one ongoing neuropsychiatric symptom. Nine of those people were hospitalized with COVID-19. The post-COVID group was compared to 21 people with no history of COVID-19 who were of similar age, health status and vaccination status.
All participants took tests that assessed thinking and memory skills, emotional health, movement, as well as measures of symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue and pain.
They also underwent functional brain MRIs while they performed three tasks to assess their working memory. The scans showed which areas of the brain were active during the tests.
“Even though the majority of people with COVID-19 in our study reported persistent problems with concentration and memory, they had scores on various thinking ability tests similar to those who had no history of COVID-19. “Chang said.
“However, their brain activity differed from those without prior COVID-19, indicating that their brains were compensating for their deficits by reorganizing networks to maintain their performance.”
However, the post-COVID group had lower scores on tests of dexterity and motor endurance than the non-COVID group. They also reported more negative feelings, such as anger and sadness, and more stress and lower scores for life satisfaction and meaning and purpose.
Additionally, they had higher scores for depression, anxiety, fatigue, and pain. People in the post-COVID group who had greater changes in their brain activity were more likely to have lower scores in many of these symptom domains.
A limitation of the study was that it was conducted primarily during the delta variant phase of the pandemic in the United States, so the results do not necessarily show whether new coronavirus variants can affect the brain in the same way. manner.
Also, since antibody tests were not performed on those who reported no prior COVID-19, it is possible that they had prior infections without symptoms.
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Picture: Image is credited to Neuroscience News
Original research: The findings will appear in Neurology