Effects of COVID-19 on Cognition – Neuroscience News

Summary: The patterns of cognitive impairments experienced by those with COVID-19 were similar to those of healthy sleep-deprived subjects. In addition, poor symptoms of cognitive impairment in coronavirus patients were directly associated with severe infection.

source: University of Western Ontario

A new long-term study led by neuroscientists at Western University shows that short-term symptoms from COVID-19, such as difficulty breathing, fever and dry cough, may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The results posted by Medicine Cell Reportsrevealing short-term and potential long-term cognitive impairment among people with COVID-19.

Through a robust data set collected by participants using the Cambridge Brain Sciences online science investigation tool, principal investigators Adrian Owen and Conor Wild discovered significant impairments in thinking, thinking speed, and verbal abilities in patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19, but Without losses in memory performance.

“The pattern of cognitive impairment in COVID-19 patients is similar to that of healthy sleep-deprived study participants,” said Owen, professor of cognitive neuroscience and imaging at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry in the West.

In 2017, Owen and Wilde conducted the world’s largest sleep study, involving more than 40,000 people, using the same online scientific research tool.

For the brain study on COVID-19, Owen, Wilde and their collaborators at Western, Cambridge University, the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center and the University of Ottawa evaluated nearly 500 people about three months after a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

Participants’ experiences about COVID-19 ranged from “very mild” to “ventilated intensive care unit”. The researchers found that the severity of cognitive impairments was directly related to the severity of the original injury.

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“The worse the patient’s COVID-19 symptoms, the worse the cognitive impairments are as well,” said Wilde, a research associate at the Schulich College of Medicine and Dentistry, noting a significant impairment in those with mild infections.

Credit: University of Western Ontario

The researchers recruited thousands of study participants; However, because testing for COVID-19 was very rare in the early days of the pandemic (the study launched in June 2020), they were unable to confirm who had had COVID-19 versus those who thought they might have it. As a result, Owen and Wilde chose to focus on 478 individuals who reported a medically confirmed case of COVID-19.

The study also found that the degree of cognitive impairment was not related to the time elapsed between infection with COVID-19 and assessment, suggesting that it may be long-term.

The researchers found that the severity of cognitive impairments was directly related to the severity of the original injury. The image is in the public domain

“Deficiencies were not lower for individuals up to three months post-injury, suggesting that these effects may not subside in the short term,” Wilde said.

mental health impact

Participants in the COVID-19 Brain Study presented significantly elevated levels of depression and anxiety, with 30 percent meeting clinical criteria for one, the other, or both.

“These effects on mental health were not related to the severity of the original infection, or cognitive impairments, suggesting that they may be the result of living under the pandemic itself, rather than the result of COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Richard. Schwartz of the Health Sciences Center in Sunnybrook.

The results of this study are an important first step in a much larger research program emerging at Western University, which includes researchers from the Western Institute of Neuroscience (WIN), BrainsCAN, the Imaging Pathogen for Knowledge Translation (ImPaKT) facility, and partners across campus who study. Cognitive impairment, disease progression and mitigation, and prolonged coronavirus social inequality.

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About this realization and COVID-19 research news

author: Jeff Reno
source: University of Western Ontario
Contact: Jeff Reno – University of Western Ontario
picture: The image is in the public domain

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original search: open access.
Separating the cognitive, physical and mental health sequelae of COVID-19Written by Connor J. Wilde et al. Medicine Cell Reports


Separating the cognitive, physical and mental health sequelae of COVID-19


  • COVID-19 survivors show cognitive differences in specific areas
  • Processing speed, verbal and inference are affected, but not memory function
  • Performance in the areas affected is related to physical health but not mental health
  • These effects have been observed in mild and hospitalized cases of COVID-19


As cases of COVID-19 exceed hundreds of millions globally, many survivors face cognitive challenges and long-term symptoms.

However, important questions about the cognitive effects of COVID-19 remain unresolved. In this online cross-sectional study, 478 adult volunteers who self-reported a positive COVID-19 test (median = 30 days since last test) performed significantly worse than pre-pandemic criteria on cognitive measures of processing speed, reasoning, and verbalization. , and general performance, but not short-term memory, suggesting a domain-specific deficit. Cognitive differences were observed even in participants who did not require hospitalization.

A factorial analysis of health and COVID-related questionnaires reveals two groups of symptoms – one that varies mostly with physical symptoms and severity of illness, and the other with mental health.

Cognitive performance is positively correlated with the global scale that includes physical symptoms, but not that broadly describing mental health, suggesting that subjective experience of ‘prolonged COVID’ relates to physical symptoms and cognitive deficits, particularly executive dysfunction.

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