A recent British study investigated brain changes in people aged between 51 and 81, caused by COVID-19.

The researchers compared the brain changes in 785 British people who had COVID-19 with 384 people who had not, taking into account various factors, that might impact the results of the study. They found differences in gray matter, the place in our brain, where information is processed. Specifically, the thickness of the gray matter tissue in 2 specific brain regions (the frontal and temporal lobes) was reduced in the COVID-19 group. The reduced gray matter influences directly our capacities to plan, organize, express ourselves but also our ability to memorize, think and learn.

The researchers highlighted that the observed reduced gray matter tissue was more extensive than the one, related to the normal brain aging.

The results of the study could also explain the one of the most prominent symptom of COVID-19, the loss of smell. The researchers found that the other brain regions, damaged after COVID-19, were related to the olfactory bulb, a structure near the front of the brain that passes signals about smells from the nose to other brain regions. The olfactory bulb has connections to regions of the temporal lobe.

Finally, the study showed that even people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 had losses of overall brain volume.

All these changes inside the brain after COVID-19 resulted in the decreased performance on cognitive tasks, that were also tested in the study. Namely, those with COVID-19 were slower in processing information than those who had not the infection.

Whether the brain can fully recover from COVID-19 over time is still to be answered.

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Tatsiana Haponava, PhD

a certified nutrition coach, educator and researcher with a PhD degree

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