Brain injuries caused by COVID-19

8 May, 2022

We analyze the study published in Nature magazine on brain injuries caused by COVID-19.

A study carried out in Oxford that aimed to determine possible injuries in the brain of people who had had mild COVID-19, has recently been published in the prestigious journal Nature.

Patients with COVID-19 may experience loss of smell and taste, headaches, and memory problems. These symptoms are related to a possible infection of the brain by the coronavirus. The study included 401 people with COVID-19 for whom a brain scan was available before infection. Of them, 96% suffered a mild disease and had a second brain scan 4.5 months after COVID-19 diagnosis. On the other hand, they included a control group of 384 people who had a previous scanner and who did not have COVID-19. This control group (with characteristics similar to the study group) also underwent a second scan.

Decrease in complex skills

In patients who had passed COVID-19, changes were found between the first and second scans, which were not seen in the control group. Thus, a loss of gray matter thickness was observed in the brain areas that are related to smell. Regarding cognitive skills, the study group had a decrease in the ability to perform complex tasks. Healthy people typically lose between 0.2% and 0.3% of memory-related gray matter annually. People who had COVID-19 had an
additional 0.2-3% gray matter loss. In 11 people in the control group who had other respiratory infections, these brain changes were not detected, suggesting that the study’s findings are specific to COVID-19.

In summary, this study has shown that in COVID-19 patients (even with mild disease) lesions in the brain can occur. However, it is unknown if all coronavirus variants can induce these alterations. In addition, these injuries brain changes may disappear over time, so it is very important to monitor these patients.

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