The COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on the brain. A non-peer-reviewed study at Imperial College in England released in late October — involving more than 84,000 people — found that coronavirus could age the brain 10 years.
Participants were asked to complete a series of cognitive tests to measure brain performance ranging from remembering words to solving dot puzzles. The greatest cognitive decline involved people who were hospitalized for COVID-19. These types of tests are commonly used to assess the impact of diseases like Alzheimer’s on the brain.
The study was led by Adam Hampshire, a doctor at Imperial College London. In some of the more severe cases, the coronavirus infection was linked to substantial cognitive deficits for months.
The worst cases identified impacts that were “equivalent to the average 10-year decline in global performance between the ages of 20 to 70,” the report said.
“People who had recovered, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits when controlling for age, gender, education level, income, racial-ethnic group and pre-existing medical disorders,” the report said. “They were of substantial effect size for people who had been hospitalised, but also for mild but biologically confirmed cases who reported no breathing difficulty.”