COVID-19 Accelerates Aging Of The Brain And May Lead To Dementia

Posted Busytape March 8, 2022
Updated 2022/03/08 at 6:10 PM
3 Min Read
COVID-19 Accelerates Aging Of The Brain And May Lead To Dementia

According to a new study, those who have contracted COVID-19, regardless of the severity, may have accelerated brain aging and an increased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature on Monday, March 7, is claimed to be the largest of its type. It discovered that those who suffered Covid-19 had a larger loss of grey matter and anomalies in brain tissue than those who did not have Covid-19.

The study discovered that the majority of those alterations occurred in the part of the brain associated with smell.

“We were quite surprised to see clear differences in the brain even with mild infection,” lead author Gwenaëlle Douaud, an associate professor of neurosciences at the University of Oxford.

Dr Douaud and her colleagues examined brain imaging photos from 401 patients who were infected with Covid-19 between March 2020 and April 2021, both before and 4.5 months after infection.

They compared the 401 individuals’ results to brain imaging of 384 uninfected individuals who were similar in age, socioeconomic status, and risk factors such as blood pressure and obesity. 15 of the 401 affected individuals were hospitalized.

Douaud explained that while it is normal for people to lose 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent of gray matter each year in memory-related areas of the brain as they age, participants in the study discovered that those infected with the coronavirus lost an additional 0.2 percent to 2% of tissue compared to those who were not infected.

Along with imaging, subjects were assessed for executive and cognitive function.

The Trail Making Test was used to assess subjects for cognitive impairments associated with dementia, as well as for brain processing speed and function. The researchers discovered that those with the highest loss of brain tissue also fared poorly on this examination.

“Since the abnormal changes we see in the infected participants’ brains might be partly related to their loss of smell, it is possible that recovering it might lead to these brain abnormalities becoming less marked over time. Similarly, it is likely that the harmful effects of the virus (whether direct, or indirect via inflammatory or immune reactions) decrease over time after infection. The best way to find out would be to scan these participants again in one or two years’ time,” she said.

Douaud added that the researchers anticipate reimaging and testing the participants in one or two years. And while the study finds some association between infection and brain function, it’s still not clear why.

The authors cautioned that the findings were only of a moment in time but noted that they “raise the possibility that longer-term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection might in time contribute to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.”

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