, Study Documents Changes In Brain After Covid-19 Infection, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Study Documents Changes In Brain After Covid-19 Infection

, Study Documents Changes In Brain After Covid-19 Infection, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Covid-19 infections have been shown to have detrimental effects on brain function, including cognitive deficits manifested as “brain fog,” seizures, depression, loss of sense of smell (anosmia), altered sense of taste (dysgeusia), hearing loss, and permanent neurologic deficits due to strokes. A pre-print study based at the University of Oxford and Imperial College, London, United Kingdom (UK) is the first to document evidence of brain changes in a large group of patients who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans both before and after Covid-19 infections, comparing them to a group of individuals’ scans with no history of Covid-19 infection.

The UK Biobank is a large biomedical database comprising over 500,000 volunteer participants who provide valuable long term research information for multiple research centers. The UK Biobank Imaging Database began collecting information from over 100,000 participants in 2014, including MRI brains, abdominal scans, and cardiac scans. Obtaining serial imaging studies on such a large population has helped researchers investigate impacts of genetics and lifestyle on health and imaging outcomes over time.

Investigators based at the University of Oxford and Imperial College reviewed MRI brain scans from UK Biobank participants as far back as three years ago, and compared their scans to follow-up brain scans performed in 2021. Of the 782 participants in their study, 394 had tested positive for Covid-19 sometime between March 2020 and April 2021. The majority of infections occurred during October 2020 and January 2021, commensurate with the surge in UK Covid-19 infections, prior to widespread access to Covid-19 vaccination.

Of the 394 infected, 15 were hospitalized for an average hospital stay of 10 days. Brain scans in this group were compared to MRI brain scans of 388 individuals who had not been infected with Covid-19. The two groups were matched for age, sex, ethnicity and basic metabolic factors including blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), the latter of which may be considered to be an indicator for obesity, a known risk factor for severity of Covid-19 illness.

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Comparing the two groups of scans, those with history of Covid-19 infections had MRI scans showing loss of grey matter of specific parts of their brains compared to their scans prior to infection. Those with no history of Covid-19 infection demonstrated no changes. The grey matter of the brain contains the majority of the neuronal tissue and cells, and is responsible for processing signals generated in the sensory organs. The investigators found grey matter abnormalities in multiple parts of the the brains of Covid-19-recovered patients, including the olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste) systems, as well as the area responsible for memory (parahippocampus) and the orbitofrontal cortex, also responsible for emotion and memory.

This study was the first to document Covid-19-related brain changes based on prior MRI brain scans of close to 400 adults who recovered from acute Covid-19 illness. As the loss of sense of smell (anosmia) has become a known hallmark of early Covid-19 infection, as well as one of the sequelae of “Long Covid” illness, it is not surprising that brain scans show abnormalities in the olfactory (smell) area of the brain compared to prior to infection. The study authors acknowledge that it remains to be determined whether or not the olfactory nerve is a direct entry point of the virus itself, or simply a common manifestation of both the acute and chronic illness.

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