A British study recently published in the preprint journal, MedRxiv (pronounced med-archive) found that patients who have had severe cases of COVID-19 experienced cognitive decline equal to a decade of aging.
Researchers analyzed cognitive test data from 84,285 Great British Intelligence Test participants who had recovered from suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Recovered patients who were hospitalized and those who reported mild symptoms and no difficulty breathing exhibited “significant cognitive deficits when controlling for age, gender, education level, income, racial-ethnic group, and pre-existing medical disorders.”
The deficits among people who were placed on ventilators exhibited cognitive deficits that were “equivalent to the average 10-year decline in global performance between the ages of 20 to 70.”
The study postulates that health conditions resulting from COVID19 such as stroke, inflammatory syndrome, and microbleeds, are responsible for the mental decline.
COVID-19 can have a serious impact on the upper respiratory system, resulting in patients with severe cases to require supplemental oxygen. Therefore, scientists in the study have also speculated that hypoxia in the brain could be responsible for cognitive decline.
Nevertheless, the authors of the study state, “It is yet to be established whether COVID-19 infection is associated with cognitive impairment at the population level; and if so, how this differs with respiratory symptom severity and relatedly, hospitalisation status. Measuring such associations is challenging.”
In conclusion, the researchers said that their findings support the premise that there are “chronic” cognitive consequences from having COVID-19.
“Individuals who recovered from suspected or confirmed COVID-19 perform worse on cognitive tests in multiple domains than would be expected given their detailed age and demographic profiles.”