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Even mild COVID takes a toll on the brain

Even mild COVID takes a toll on the brain


Editor’s note: The latest lengthy COVID news and guidance can be found at Medscape’s long COVID resource center.

Early research suggests that even mild cases of COVID-19 can affect brain function and structure.

Dr. Clarissa Yasuda

“Our results suggest profound pattern changes in how the brain communicates and in its structure. It’s seen in people who are ill,” said Clarissa Yasuda, M.D., Ph.D., director of research at the university. Mayor Campinas of São Paulo, Brazil, said in a news release:

“The magnitude of these changes suggests that they may cause problems with memory and thinking, so holistic treatments should be considered even in people with mild COVID-19 effects.” added Yasuda.

The study was presented early ahead of its presentation at the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) 2023 Annual Meeting, scheduled for April.

brain contraction

Several studies have shown a high prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depression in COVID-19 survivors, but few studies have investigated related brain changes, Yasuda said. . Medscape Medical News.

The study included 254 adults (177 females, 77 males, median age 41 years) who developed mild COVID-19 a median of 82 days ago. A total of 102 had symptoms of both anxiety and depression, and 152 had none.

Brain imaging showed that people with COVID-19 and suffering from anxiety and depression showed atrophy in areas of the limbic system involved in memory and emotional processing.

This area reduction was not evident in COVID-19 patients without anxiety or depression, or in healthy controls without COVID-19.

Researchers also observed a “severe” pattern of abnormal brain functional connectivity in people with COVID-19 and anxiety and depression.

In this functional connectivity analysis, individuals with COVID-19 and anxiety and depression showed widespread functional alterations in each of the 12 networks evaluated, whereas individuals with COVID-19 but with anxiety showed extensive functional alterations in each of the 12 networks evaluated. and those without symptoms of depression showed changes in only five networks.

unknown mechanism

“Unfortunately, the underlying mechanisms associated with brain changes and neuropsychiatric disorders after COVID-19 infection are unknown,” Yasuda said. Medscape Medical News.

“Several studies have shown associations between symptoms of anxiety and depression and inflammation. We hypothesize that it may be the result of complex interactions, and the real interest of such changes is in individuals presenting with mild acute infections,” Yasuda added. .

“Symptoms of anxiety and depression are frequently observed after COVID-19 and are part of the long-term COVID syndrome for some individuals. I need proper treatment for it,” she said.

Treating these conditions “can induce plasticity in the brain, leading to some increase in gray matter and ultimately preventing structural and functional damage,” Yasuda said.

A limitation of this study was that anxiety and depression symptoms were self-reported, meaning that people may have misjudged or misreported their symptoms.

Comments on survey results Medscape Medical News , Cyrus Raji, MD, PhD, Mallinckrodt Radiation Institute, University of Washington, St. Louis, Missouri, said: The idea that COVID-19 is bad for the brain is not new.

as previously reported To Medscape Medical Newsearly in the pandemic, Raji and colleagues published a paper detailing the effects of COVID-19 on the brain, to which Raji followed up (Raji was not involved with Yasuda’s team in this current study.)

“In the framework of what we already know about COVID-19 infection and its adverse effects on the brain, this study provides a useful insight into the functional and structural aspects associated with anxiety and depression in people suffering from COVID-19 infection. By identifying neuroimaging abnormalities, we incrementally add to this knowledge,” Raj said.

This research was supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation. The author has no relevant disclosures. Raji is a consultant for Brainreader, Apollo Health, Pacific Neuroscience Foundation, and Neurevolution LLC.

American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 2023 Annual Meeting: 1998 Abstract. Scheduled to be announced on April 24, 2023.

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