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Corona: Cognitive disorders after intensive care

Corona: Cognitive disorders after intensive care

Word-finding problems, delayed reaction times and generally impaired brain performance have been found by British scientists in Covid 19 patients who have been cared for in an intensive care unit for a long time. Even half a year after the infection, the patients still had problems.

Their cognitive impairments would correspond to aging by about 20 years, the study authors from the University of Cambridge explain. “Cognitive deficits can result from many neurological diseases, ranging from dementia to normal aging processes. But the pattern we saw – the ‘cognitive fingerprint’ of Covid-19 – looks different,” explains lead author David Menon of the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine of the University.

To the study

The scientists had subjected 46 Covid-19 patients to detailed computer-aided tests an average of six months after their stay in the intensive care unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. 16 of the patients also had to be mechanically ventilated. In some cases this can take up to 50 days. The test results were compared to those of 66,008 people from the general population.

The comparison revealed a specific pattern of long-term cognitive impairment in the Covid-19 patients: they showed less accurate responses to stimuli and a longer overall reaction time. The ability to draw conclusions by analogy was particularly impaired. The scientists wrote that this corresponds to the word-finding disorders often reported by those who have recovered from Covid 19.

Overall, stimulus processing slowed down, which may correlate with the reduced sugar consumption (glucose as an energy source) found in Covid-19 survivors in those brain areas responsible for complex tasks, attention, etc.

The scientists estimate that the extent of the loss of cognitive capacity corresponds to that between the ages of 50 and 70 on average. The IQ fell by ten points, the British university said in a statement.

The good news

However, those affected seem to recover over time. Menon: “We followed some of the patients for up to ten months after the acute infection. We noticed a slow improvement. It wasn’t statistically significant, but it at least points in the right direction. However, it is also very possible that these people will not fully recover.”

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