Brain Injury Linked with COVID-19

People who have recovered from the novel coronavirus frequently report lingering health problems, including loss of smell and taste as well as brain fog, which usually resolve over time. These “Longcovid” or long haul symptoms are associated with the body and brain’s response to the virus, and a recent study has found that a severe COVID-19 infection could increase the risk of brain injury and developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

According to a recent NPR report, brain injury symptoms such as forgetfulness, seizures, or psychosis indicate brain injury as a result of COVID-19.   SARS CoV-2 infection can lead to blood clots that may cause a stroke and in some cases, the brain is damaged when the lungs fail to provide enough oxygen.  

Researchers who were able to study brain tissue from deceased COVID-19 patients also saw inflammation and damage to small blood vessels in the brain similar to the effects of tiny strokes across various areas of the brain.  The widespread damage explains why patients with coronavirus report a number of different cognitive symptoms.  If the areas of the brain that control blood pressure, breathing, or heart rate are damaged, patients may experience dizziness or a racing heartbeat. Damage to the blood-brain barrier may also contribute to neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders.

Scientists from around the world are enrolling patients who have recovered from COVID-19 in studies to help determine the long-term effect of infection on brain health, following up at six-month intervals to assess behavior, memory, and overall function. 

Learn more about the ongoing study of the impact of COVID-19 on the central nervous system by following this link to a recent article published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.