New Findings on COVID-19’s Impacts on the Brain

Patients with COVID-19 have reported headaches, confusion, and brain fog, among other symptoms

For some, the cognitive effects of the virus don’t seem to go away after the initial infection has passed. While there is still so much we don’t understand about how SARS-CoV-2 affects the entire body; new research is shedding light on what it could be doing to the brain.

Researchers at Tulane University carried out an animal study. They looked at the brains of nonhuman primates infected with SARS-CoV-2 and compared the results to findings observed in infected human patients.

The findings:

  • The researchers found brain inflammation and injury consistent with reduced blood flow or lack of oxygen to the brain in all infected primates.
  • Small hemorrhages or “microbleeds” were found in the brains of all of the infected primates, although the severity and amount of these bleeds varied.
  • The animals that experienced the brain effects did not necessarily have severe cases of COVID.
  • These findings were similar to human MRI imaging and autopsy reports.
  • Although the animals did not develop severe respiratory disease with COVID, they displayed neurological symptoms consistent with the development of “long covid.”

The takeaway: These cognitive complications that arise from infection appear to affect people from all backgrounds, with or without comorbidities, at all ages, and with varying degrees of severity. Further research is needed to fully understand how and why this happens, especially for those who struggle with “long COVID.” The US government just announced a research task force to focus on the many elements of long covid aside from just the impacts on the brain. The more we know about how COVID impacts the brain and body as a whole, the more scientists will be able to understand and develop treatments for those who suffer from the long-term neurological and physical consequences of this disease.

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