Studies Offer Insight into Impact of COVID-19 on the Brain


GAINESVILLE, FloridaA study by researchers at the University of Oxford looking at more than 200,000 patients with COVID-19 found that one in three suffered from neurological and psychiatric effects that lasted six months after infection.

What would you like to know

  • Study found 1 in 3 COVID-19 patients had neurological and psychiatric symptoms 6 months after infection
  • Small study found slight improvement in long-term symptoms after vaccination
  • LINK: Read the full study
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“I think it’s concerning because it’s a unique situation we find ourselves in,” said Dr. Chris Robinson, assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the division of neurocritical care at the College of Medicine. University of Florida. “It’s unprecedented and it’s multifactorial. So we have a pandemic with a virus that’s new, which means we don’t know what it is and it has never infected anyone before. Then we have societal norms that have changed because of the pandemic, like being forced, you know, to stay in your home, being afraid of your own mortality. “

In the study published byThe Lancet, researchers looked at the incidence of 14 neurological and psychological conditions in patients six months after becoming infected with COVID-19.

It found that 33.62% suffered from these conditions, with 12.84% having received their first diagnosis of this type. This figure was higher for people who had to be hospitalized, with 46.42% suffering from a neurological disorder and 25.79% receiving a first diagnosis. Some of the most frequently encountered conditions include anxiety disorder (17.39%), ischemic stroke (2.10%), and psychotic disorder (1.40%).

The researchers found that most diagnostic categories were more common in patients with COVID-19 than in those with the flu or other respiratory illnesses, which Robinson says cause similar effects.

“The things that we see are similar, but now they are getting attention. So I saw a lot of flu cases with similar things, I saw a lot of other viruses, but it was something. something we were aware of and did not affect billions of people, ”said Robinson.

Robinson said that in addition to the fact that mental health may play a role, these effects could also be the result of an immune response.

“There are a lot of studies that have now been done on deceased patients that have done pathological studies on their brains,” said Robinson. “There is little to no what we call viral RNA particles in the brain. What we are seeing is a lot of cellular changes resulting from systemic inflammation. The majority of your neurological processes that you have seen in previous viruses is a result of the inflammation in which you catch the virus, your body makes immune cells to fight this virus, and it goes away. Then something causes your immune system to say, ‘You know what ? I’m going to make a new antibody, and it’s going to attack your nerves, or it’s going to attack your cardiovascular system. ‘”

The emerging evidence offers a glimmer of hope. A small UK study of 44 patients found that some of those who were vaccinated saw a slight improvement in overall symptoms over the long term.

“The problem is, right now it’s anecdotal experiences that say … ‘Hey, I was dying from that, you know, brain fog or fatigue and then I got my shot, and I’m fine, ” Robinson said.

Robinson said more research is needed on this and to determine the reasons and the best treatment for the long-term symptoms of COVID-19.

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