According to a new study, cognitive impairment, also known as “brain fog,” can last for months in COVID-19 patients! This is seemingly the case even for those who did not have symptoms bad enough to be hospitalized.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open and concluded that almost a quarter of patients in a Mount Sinai Health System registry had memory issues, most of them being hospitalized.
However, the researchers also found that some outpatients experienced cognitive issues as well.
Jacqueline Becker and her team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York wrote in their study that “we found a relatively high frequency of cognitive impairment several months after patients contracted COVID-19. Impairments in executive functioning, processing speed, category fluency, memory encoding, and recall were predominant among hospitalized patients. This pattern is consistent with early reports describing a dysexecutive syndrome after COVID-19 and has considerable implications for occupational, psychological, and functional outcomes.”
More research previously published back in April in the journal Lancet Psychiatry discovered that 1 in every 3 people infected with COVID-19 experienced longer term neurological or mental health problems.
The study mentions that neurological symptoms manifest in most hospitalized cases.
With that being said, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include concentration or thinking difficulty, also known as “brain fog” on their list of post recovery symptoms.
On their official website, it says that “Although most people with COVID-19 tend to get better within weeks of illness, some experience post-COVID conditions. Post-COVID conditions include a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience 4 or more weeks after getting infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.”
The new research features data registered between April of 2020 and May of 2021 from 740 patients without any history of dementia and the average age being 49.
Each patient’s cognitive functioning was assessed and the frequency of cognitive impairment amongst them was also analyzed by the researchers.
By doing this, researchers were able to find that:
– 15 percent of patients presented a deficit in phonemic fluency in their speaking,
– 16 percent had a deficit in their executive functioning,
– 18 percent showed a deficit in their cognitive processing speed,
– 20 percent found difficulty in processing lists or categories.
– 23 percent presented a deficit in memory recall,
– 24 percent showed a deficit in memory encoding and other similar impairments.
Researchers mentioned that those hospitalized were more likely to experience impairments in attention, category fluency and memory as well as executive functioning.
More precisely, in the case of memory recall, they were able to conclude that 39 percent of hospitalized individuals presented impairment as compared to 12 percent of those not hospitalized.
As for memory encoding, it was determined that 37 percent of hospitalized patients experienced this impairment while outpatients experienced it in 16 percent of cases.
However, it is important to mention that there is a possible bias surrounding the study since most patients came to the Mount Sinai Health System precisely because they were already having some of these symptoms.
The researchers explained that “The association of COVID-19 with executive functioning raises key questions regarding patients’ long-term treatment. Future studies are needed to identify the risk factors and mechanisms underlying cognitive dysfunction as well as options for rehabilitation.”