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Severe COVID Might Cause Cognitive Impairment Equal to Twenty Years of Aging

by | Health & Wellness

Published on May 11, 2022

Recent evidence is rising to support the claim that COVID-19 can cause neurological disorders that present symptoms such as cognitive impairment even after recovery. 

A study led by a science team from the University of Cambridge and the Imperial College, London, has found that the cognitive damage sustained as a result of COVID equals what happens when one age by 20 years. 

This also equals losing 10 IQ points or showing signs of early dementia. 

This study observed data from 46 people who had recovered from COVID, all of whom had been admitted to a hospital—Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. They had been admitted into a ward or into the intensive care unit. 16 of the 46 individuals had been put under assisted ventilation.

On an average of six months following their recovery, the 46 study individuals underwent cognitive function tests. The tests were carried out using Cognitron. Cognitron is a platform that measures mental functionality and capacity. It measures memory, attention, anxiety, depression, etc.

The 46 individuals were studied in comparison with healthy controls. That is people who had not before come down with COVID. The controls were 460 in number. 

Results from the study showed that people who had once come down with COVID, compared to the controls, were much slower and less accurate. Their cognitive impairment was more pronounced with tasks like verbal analogical reasoning; on average, they seemed to have problems with choosing the right words to say. 

The findings from the University of Cambridge are consistent with other findings and experiences from around the world. An example is Dr. Tamara Fong, MD, Ph.D., who accounts that many patients who visited a clinic she works found that they were a bit ‘foggy’ and drowsy. 

These patients, she says, had problems with reasoning and showed a deficit in mental acuity; even after months following recovery, it proved somewhat difficult to remember names or to think of what to say, exactly what was found by the University of Cambridge.

A study conducted by German researchers also points in the same direction. This study shows that people who recover from COVID are at a much higher risk of coming down with neurological conditions such as forgetfulness, stroke, anxiety, etc. 

The study claims that patients who had been so sick they had to be hospitalized may be at a higher risk of these neurological deficits. However, even patients who have had mild COVID infections can also show signs of COVID-related cognitive impairments.

It is still not totally understood what causes cognitive impairment post-COVID or how long it is expected to last. Researchers believe that the impairment may be as a result of infection or as a result of many combining factors, which may include oxygen supply to the brain, glucose consumption, etc. They also believe that it starts to clear out over time. 

Professor Mendon has said: “We followed some patients up as late as ten months after their acute infection, so we were able to see a very slow improvement. Whilst this was not statistically significant, it is at least heading in the right direction. But it is very possible that some of these individuals may never fully recover.” 

These discoveries are not in any way meant to scare you but are meant to encourage you to live a healthy life. If you have come down with COVID at any point, then you just have to pay more attention to your health. 

Avoid any more COVID exposures by getting a vaccination and paying attention to dieting, regular rest, and exercising. If you find that you are showing signs of cognitive impairment, book an appointment with your doctor and hear what he has to say. 

By all means, stay healthy

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By Aleksandra Nico

Dr. Aleksandra Nico is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is in private practice in Brunswick and has experience in a wide variety of areas, including mood-related difficulties, anxiety, psychosis, trauma, addictions, personality disorders, and anger management. Dr. Nico completed a Ph.D. at the University of Nevada. Her goal is not to make very good people out of good, but to get the unique out of them.

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