Brain disorders: Impact of mild SARS-CoV-2 may shrink several parts of the brain

The study, titled “Brain disorders: Impact of mild SARS-CoV-2 may shrink several parts of the brain,” presents significant findings on the neurological impacts of COVID-19, particularly in cases of mild infection.

Key points include:

  1. COVID-19’s Neurological Impact: COVID-19, a highly infectious respiratory disease, has shown to cause direct brain injury, leading to long-term effects on mental health and brain function. The study focused on the prolonged neurological consequences and brain changes in individuals with mild COVID-19 infection, finding increased brain shrinkage, grey matter reduction, and tissue damage compared to a control group​​.
  2. Brain Shrinkage and Damage: It was observed that all COVID-19 participants, regardless of symptom severity, experienced a reduction in the size of their olfactory cortex, ranging from 0.2% to 2.0%, which is significant compared to the normal aging process where grey matter loss is about 0.2–0.3% per year. Additionally, disruptions in connections between different brain regions were noted​​.
  3. Affected Brain Regions: The orbitofrontal cortex and the parahippocampal gyrus, areas associated with emotion regulation, memory, spatial awareness, and decision-making, showed diminished grey matter thickness and tissue contrast. This aligns with symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, and “brain fog” experienced by those infected. The primary olfactory cortex was also impacted, correlating with the commonly reported loss of smell​​.
  4. Selection Bias Concern: The study acknowledges potential selection bias, as it only included individuals who got tested for COVID-19, potentially excluding a significant number of mild or asymptomatic cases​​.
  5. Long COVID Characterization: Long COVID is characterized by persistent symptoms lasting for at least three months post-infection, diagnosis, or hospitalization. Rehabilitation plays a critical role in recovery, with an emphasis on managing long-term COVID symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options​​.
  6. Post-Rehabilitation Findings: After three months of rehabilitation, various symptoms persisted among patients, including headaches, coughs, chest tightness, palpitations, and fatigue. Notably, the lungs of 82% of patients were found to be normal in follow-up assessments, suggesting extrapulmonary causes for ongoing symptoms​​.
  7. Long-Term Effects and Gender Differences: Six months post-infection, many patients continued to experience fatigue, weakness, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Women, in particular, were more susceptible to long-term mental health problems. A year after discharge, many still reported chronic fatigue, anxiety, joint pain, and hair loss, linked to the inflammatory response or mental state during illness​​.
  8. Conclusion and Future Implications: The study concluded that COVID-19 can cause systemic immune responses leading to various neurological and mental symptoms. Long-term health surveillance of COVID-19 patients is essential, with a particular focus on monitoring brain microangiopathy and metabolism. Long COVID is identified as a significant public health issue, underlining the need for ongoing research and healthcare support for affected individuals​​.

These findings underscore the necessity for continued research and healthcare support for individuals affected by COVID-19, especially those experiencing long-term neurological and mental health effects.

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