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The brain can change when infected with Covid-19

Lenin Boscaney
3 min read
The brain can change when infected with Covid-19 – Wellness and Health
Some of the cases present a reduction in brain size.

A study published in the journal Nature shows that getting Covid-19, even if it has been a mild illness, can bring about significant changes in the brain. The researchers responsible for this publication found features of change in the scans before and after infection.

The resonances showed an evident change in the reduction of brain size, affected precisely in the regions of smell and memory. Whether these consequences are lifelong or time-varying is unknown.

Gwenaelle Douaud, lead author of the study and Professor at the Wellcome Center for Integrative Neuroimaging at the University of Oxford exclaimed at the discovery:

"We were looking at an essentially mild infection, so to see that there were actually differences in the brain and how much it had changed compared to those who hadn't been infected was a big surprise."

Study data

With the help of the UK Biobank project, which follows more than 5,000 people in their health status, it was possible to show the brain changes, since they keep the scans they did before the pandemic.

With 401 participants, the researchers rescanned their brains after four months of their Covid-19 infection, which was presented mildly in a percentage of patients of 96%. It should be noted that they also used a figure of 384 patients who did not have Covid to compare the results.

The following findings were evidenced:

  • In infected patients, there was a 0.2-2% reduction in brain size.

  • In areas related to the sense of smell and memory ability, a reduction in gray matter was found.

  • Patients recently recovered from the disease presented greater complexity in performing mental tasks.

The study was carried out taking into account the main variant and the alpha. It is completely unknown if all phases of the virus can cause this damage and if at any point, the brain can recover from the damage.

"We have to keep in mind that the brain is actually plastic, by that we mean it can heal itself, so there's a strong chance that, over time, the harmful effects of the infection will go away," said lead author Of the investigation.

For its part, Naomi Allen, scientific director of the UK Biobank, commented on the research that it:

"It raises all sorts of questions that other researchers can further investigate about the effect of coronavirus infection on cognitive function, brain fog and other areas of the brain, to really focus research on how best to mitigate that."

Similarly, David Werring, professor at the Institute of Neurology at University College London, stated that:

“Other health-related behaviors could have contributed to the observed changes. Changes in cognitive function were also subtle and of unclear relevance to daily function and these changes are not necessarily seen in all infected individuals and may not be relevant to more recent strains."

The findings and evidence were shown to be mild, so the researchers agree that its relevance may not be significant for all people and even for the other strains that the virus has developed.