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Study: Covid-19 may age the brain by 10 years

CAPE TOWN – A recent study, published on the MedRxiv website, finds that recovering Covid-19 patients may suffer from significant brain impact with the more severe case of infection possibly causing a mental decline similar to the ageing of the brain by 10 years.

A study led by Adam Hampshire, a doctor at Imperial College London with a focus on cognition, learning and brain imaging, conducted a study of over 84 000 people finding that in severe cases of Covid-19, patients suffered a significant impact on the brain for months after recovery.

“Our analyses align with the view that there are chronic cognitive consequences of having Covid-19,” the researchers in the study report. “People who had recovered, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits.”

The researchers assessed results from a study called the Great British Intelligence Test that saw 84,285 participants with the researchers finding that the cognitive deficits found in many were people who had been hospitalised with Covid-19 with worst cases equivalent to the brain ageing by 10 years in-terms of performance in individuals aged between 20 to 70.

Cognitive brain function is what’s used to perform simple tasks such as joining dots in a puzzle or remembering words, with this function and its performance of the brain commonly tested to diagnose diseases such as Alzheimer’s or analyse impairments in the brain.

Joanna Wardlaw, a professor of applied neuroimaging at Edinburgh University, says, “The cognitive function of the participants was not known pre-Covid, and the results also do not reflect long-term recovery – so any effects on cognition may be short term.”

“As researchers seek to better understand the long term impact of Covid, it will be important to further investigate the extent to which cognition is impacted in the weeks and months after the infection, and whether permanent damage to brain function results in some people.”

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