Even minor infections cause chemotherapy-like effects on the brain

Even minor infections with COVID-19 It can cause “deep” cellular effects in the brain with long-lasting effects on memory and executive function, according to a new study released Monday.

A preprint study from authors at Stanford, Yale, and Mount Sinai in New York, which has not been published or peer-reviewed, found that people with COVID can often experience neurological effects similar to those on cancer treatment — cases you know are known as damage. cancer therapy-associated cognitive function (CRCI) or “brain chemo”.

“The results presented here illustrate striking similarities between neurophysiology after cancer treatment and after SARS-CoV-2 infection, and illustrate cellular deficiencies that may contribute to the persistence of neurological symptoms after mild SARS-CoV-2 infection,” write the authors.

Symptoms of Covid-19 and brain disease

Using injured mice as models, the researchers found a “sharp decline” in new neurons generated in the hippocampus region of the brain just a week after injury, and determined that the condition persisted for at least seven weeks. (The formation of neurons in that area of ​​the brain is thought to support healthy memory function.)

Researchers examined brain tissue from people who died in early 2020 and had COVID at the time of death; They found signs of “significantly increased” inflammation in the brain, even in those with mild or no symptoms.

In addition, they studied people with “prolonged COVID” in two groups, those with cognitive effects and those without – most of whom had only mild infections and were not hospitalized. The authors reported that subjects with cognitive effects had elevated levels of inflammation-related proteins in their plasma.

Symptoms of Omicron COVID-19

In their discussion, the researchers summarized, “Overall, the results presented here confirm multicellular arrhythmias deep in the brain caused by the mild respiratory infection SARS-CoV-2.”

Most of the data in the study comes from the start of the pandemic, and scientists say it remains unclear what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be. variabel omicronFor example, it will be on people.

They noted that “the incidence and severity of post-COVID-19 cognitive impairment caused by newer SARS-CoV-2 variants such as the Omicron variant, or as a result of penetration of infection in vaccinated individuals, remains to be determined.”

The study adds to growing evidence for what some are callingcovid brainor the “COVID haze”, which scientists are still trying to fully understand—specifically, how long it can last in those who have recovered.

Increasing evidence is emerging that COVID-19 can have disruptive effects on the brain, informally referred to as “brain fog”, and doctors are concerned that people are suffering without knowing it is COVID-related. Rana Novini reports from NBC New York.

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