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According to a recent study by researchers from King’s College London, the lingering effects of Covid-19 can have a surprisingly detrimental impact on cognitive functioning. The abilities affected by long Covid include memory, reasoning, motor control, attention, and processing speed. The researchers found that the long Covid "brain fog" can result in a decline in mental speed and accuracy similar to the brain aging by 10 years in just a matter of weeks.
Over 3,000 people took part in the study, which involved 12 cognitive tests covering a wide range of thinking skills. One major takeaway from the study was that the cognitive decline associated with long Covid can last for weeks, months, or even years. However, individuals who feel fully recovered from the illness appear to regain their previous level of cognitive ability.
Emerging from the brain fog:
- Scientists have identified numerous symptoms associated with long Covid that can persist for months or even years, including memory problems, depression, and extreme fatigue. Another study found that Covid-19 can rapidly accelerate the brain deterioration of patients with dementia.
- Other research has suggested that long Covid’s cognitive difficulties may be the result of brain inflammation, though this proposed link is not yet clear.
- Although estimates vary, long Covid appears to be widespread, though gradually plateauing. According to the June 2023 Household Pulse Survey, administered by the Census Bureau, 11% of Americans who had ever been infected by Covid-19 were still experiencing long Covid symptoms. In June 2022, that figure was closer to 19%.