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Mounting research shows that COVID-19 leaves its mark on the brain, including with significant drops in IQ scores

Ziyad Al-Aly, Washington University in St. Louis, The Conversation on

Published in Health & Fitness

From the very early days of the pandemic, brain fog emerged as a significant health condition that many experience after COVID-19.

Brain fog is a colloquial term that describes a state of mental sluggishness or lack of clarity and haziness that makes it difficult to concentrate, remember things and think clearly.

Fast-forward four years and there is now abundant evidence that being infected with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – can affect brain health in many ways.

In addition to brain fog, COVID-19 can lead to an array of problems, including headaches, seizure disorders, strokes, sleep problems, and tingling and paralysis of the nerves, as well as several mental health disorders.

A large and growing body of evidence amassed throughout the pandemic details the many ways that COVID-19 leaves an indelible mark on the brain. But the specific pathways by which the virus does so are still being elucidated, and curative treatments are nonexistent.

Now, two new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine shed further light on the profound toll of COVID-19 on cognitive health.

 

I am a physician scientist, and I have been devoted to studying long COVID since early patient reports about this condition – even before the term “long COVID” was coined. I have testified before the U.S. Senate as an expert witness on long COVID and have published extensively on this topic.

Here are some of the most important studies to date documenting how COVID-19 affects brain health:

Large epidemiological analyses showed that people who had COVID-19 were at an increased risk of cognitive deficits, such as memory problems.

Imaging studies done in people before and after their COVID-19 infections show shrinkage of brain volume and altered brain structure after infection.

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