[Reprinted: Loop Caribbean News, 11-01-2020]
COVID-19 could cause impaired cognitive function.
That’s according to the Great British Intelligence Test, a study which was led by Dr Adam Hamshire from Imperial College and done in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, King’s College London and the University of Chicago.
Researchers found that in the worst cases the infection can cause mental decline equivalent to an 8.5-point fall in IQ and the brain aged by up to 10 years.
Scientists involved in the UK-based study suggest that the brain-fog reported by many people weeks after they recovered from COVID-19 could be a sign of more serious cognitive deficits.
As part of the study, the cognitive results of 84,285 participants were analysed.
Research showed that those worst affected suffered an 8.5 drop in their IQ while COVID-infected individuals who had to be placed in intensive care suffered more severe mental issues.
According to the study, for people who were placed on ventilators semantic problem solving and visual attention were particularly reduced.
The report found that there were chronic cognitive consequences of having COVID-19.
Those who had the virus had relatively low scores in tests on logic, the meaning of words, spatial orientation, attention and processing emotions even after they fully recovered.
“Individuals who recovered from suspected or confirmed COVID-19 perform worse on cognitive tests in multiple domains than would be expected, given their detailed age and demographic profiles,” the study said. “This deficit scales with symptom severity and is evident amongst those without hospital treatment.”
Of those who took part in the tests, 60 said they had to be put on a ventilator due to having COVID, while 147 said they were treated in hospital for the virus.
Just last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that one in ten Brits under the age of 50 could get long-COVID if they contract the virus.
Thousands of people who tested positive for the coronavirus are said to be suffering from symptoms months after they were first infected.
These symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue.
Commenting on the issues caused by long-COVID, Hancock said health officials have already noted worrying numbers of young, fit and otherwise healthy people suffering debilitating symptoms months after contracting COVID-19.
“A study by King’s College London showed that one in 20 people with coronavirus is likely to have virus symptoms like fatigue, breathlessness, muscle pain and neurological problems for eight weeks or more.”
But he added: “In the under 50-year-old adults it’s more like one in 10″.
The Health Secretary said there seems to be a correlation that implies that it is more of a problem among younger people.
He said, “Understanding this Long COVID is still in its early stages and an awful lot more research is needed.”
Hancock claims he met people in their 20s and 30s “unable to work, sapped of all their energy, living with the effects of a virus that has completely changed their lives”.
He said there appears to be no correlation between how bad the virus is when people catch it and whether they get long-term problems.
In some cases people have no symptoms initially and can find they have months and months of other symptoms, he added.
But according to the KCL study, people who had a greater number of different symptoms in the first week of being ill were more likely to have prolonged health problems.
The report – which is yet to be peer-reviewed – called for more research into the effects of “Long COVID”.