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COVID-19 can cause brain shrinkage, memory loss – study

Reuters - 08/03/2022 - COVID-19 can cause the brain to shrink, reduce grey matter in the regions that control emotion and memory, and damage areas that control the sense of smell, an Oxford University study has found. 

The scientists said that the effects were even seen in people who had not been hospitalised with COVID, and further investigation was needed to know whether the impact could be partially reversed or if they would persist in the long term. 

"There is strong evidence for brain-related abnormalities in COVID-19," the researchers said in their study, published in Nature on Monday. 

Even in mild cases, participants in the research showed "a worsening of executive function" responsible for focus and organising, and on an average brain sizes shrank between 0.2% and 2%. 

The study, based on data from the UK Biobank, investigated brain changes in 785 participants aged 51–81 whose brains were scanned twice, including 401 people who caught COVID between their two scans. The second scan was done, on average, 141 days after the first scan. 

Studies have found some people who had COVID suffered from "brain fog" or mental cloudiness that included impairment to attention, concentration, speed of information processing and memory. 

"These mainly limbic brain imaging results may be the in vivo hallmarks of a degenerative spread of the disease via olfactory pathways, of neuroinflammatory events, or of the loss of sensory input due to anosmia," the authors conclude. 

The researchers did not examine whether vaccination against COVID had any impact on the condition, but the UK Health Security Agency said last month that a review of 15 studies found vaccinated people were about half as likely to develop symptoms of long COVID compared with the unvaccinated. 

SOURCE: https://go.nature.com/3vQqnPw  Nature, online March 7, 2022. 

By Reuters Staff 

© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Medicom Medical Publishers.
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