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Loss of taste and smell, headaches, memory problems, ‘mental fog’, but not only. There are several ndolarlogical symptoms attributed to Covid-19 infection, including a possible ‘shrinkage’ of the brain. It was discovered by a team of scientists who decided to investigate how the brain changes after Covid to find an explanation for these debilitating consequences of the disease. To do this, it used a maxi biobank made of GB, a large-scale database that collects and shares health and genetic information for about half a million people. The team used brain imaging to study brain changes and released data on 785 people between the ages of 51 and 81. Data showing strong evidence of post-infection brain abnormalities. Covid appears to shrink the brain, and a greater reduction in gray matter thickness and tissue contrast is observed in two areas, in the orbitofrontal cortex and in the parahippocampal gyrus. Furthermore, the greatest changes in tissue damage markers are in regions that are functionally related to the primary olfactory cortex.
These are the results, published in the journal ‘Nature’. The authors of the study – scientists from the University of Oxford with the collaboration of colleagues from University College London, the US National Institutes of Mental Health (of the Nih network) in Bethesda and Imperial College London – specify that “it remains to be investigated. with further follow-up if this impact can be partially reversed or if these effects persist over the long term. ” People enrolled in the study underwent brain imaging before and after infection. 401 tested positive between the two scans, 141 days on average elapsed from diagnosis to the second brain scan. The variant that affected each of them is not known, but the scans were conducted before the emergence of Omicron. Instead, 384 people were included in the control group.
The availability of pre-infection imaging data, the authors point out, “reduces the likelihood that pre-existing risk factors will be misinterpreted as disease effects.” Effects, those observed, “significant when comparing the two groups”. Participants who became infected “also showed on average a greater cognitive decline between the two time references analyzed.”
Importantly, these longitudinal imaging and cognitive effects were still observed after excluding the 15 cases who had been hospitalized. These findings could be, the study authors suggest, “the in vivo hallmarks of degenerative disease spread via the olfactory pathways, ndolarinflammatory events, or loss of sensory input due to anosmia.”
There is still a lot of work to be done to extract all the useful information from the maxi database, it is pointed out in an online study in ‘Nature’. The repeat imaging study for Covid is underway, and the results of two thousand brain scans in all are expected. This, coupled with health information from participants, could help researchers begin exploring how brain changes relate to specific Covid symptoms. And how all this can be prevented and recovered.