A trend of lingering mental impairment among people who have recovered from COVID-19 infections, equivalent to a seven point drop in IQ, has shown up in new research.
The study, published in The Lancet’s journal of EClinical Medicine, was conducted by Imperial College London’s Dr Adam Hampshire and collected data from a range of people with varying degrees of infection.
The research shows a relationship between weaker cognitive performance in testing and the severity of respiratory symptoms experienced in a previous Covid infection.
The study examined a total group of 80,000, but the strongest impact was seen among a group of 200 that were hospitalised or required mechanical ventilation.
The study notes that the cause does not appear to be a pre-existing condition or statistical anomaly.
Those who required ventilation demonstrated a seven point drop in IQ, equal the cognitive impact seen over a decade of aging.
Dr Hampshire said: “This research is all converging to indicate that there are some important effects of COVID-19 on the brain that need further investigation.”
An important area of this future research is likely to be the extent to which these effects persist in the long term, with the current study focusing on people up to six months after recovering from COVID.
Not all areas of thought demonstrated the same level of impairment, with reasoning and problem solving showing the greatest decline.
Emotional intelligence and short term memorisation did not seem to be impacted to a measurable extent.
Because the cognitive impairment was shown to be more pronounced among people who were hospitalised, the authors believe that vaccination should be effective against it.
Senior author Professor Mitul Mehta from King’s College London said: “The findings from this study suggest that by reducing the severity of illness through these different approaches we may also be able to reduce the severity of cognitive difficulties people may experience.”