Cognitive decline: does Covid-19 make our brains age 10 years?

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One study suggests that coronavirus infection could damage cognitive functions.

We know that Covid-19 can affect the brain and even cause neurological symptoms (headaches, confusion, delirium). But could it cause cognitive damage? Researchers from Imperial College London (United Kingdom) tried to measure the impact of the coronavirus on the brain faculties of more than 84,000 people who have contracted Covid-19 or are suspected of having it.

Each has passed cognitive tests equivalent to those used to evaluate patients with Alzheimers disease. They aim to measure different abilities, such as focusing attention to remember words, connect the dots, or solve problems.

The results, published on the website, show that individuals who have had Covid-19 perform worse than those who have not been infected, in short, that the disease would have caused cognitive deficits. And this, even after the symptoms disappear. The brains of the patients most severely affected by the disease (those who have been hospitalized) have even aged ten years compared to others, according to the scientists.

However, the results should be taken as a grain of salt. On the one hand, the researchers cannot know if infected patients really had their abilities diminished after the illness because the same neurocognitive tests were not performed before the illness (which would have allowed them to be compared). On the other hand, it is still too early to know if these observed poor cognitive outcomes are final or only transitory.

So there is hope. Research must continue to better understand the consequences of coronavirus infection on the brain. And measure whether cognition is effectively affected in the following weeks and whether this damage is temporary or permanent.

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