English study shows potential link between cognitive decline and COVID-19

BOSTON — For months doctors have talked about brain problems linked to COVID-19, now, researchers in London warn the disease may cause significant mental decline in some people, including aging of the brain.

The study was done by researchers at Imperial College in England, but has not been peer-reviewed.

The researchers had 84,000 participants, only about 300 had confirmed cases of COVID-19, many others were suspected cases. Participants completed online brain tests to measure performance for tasks.

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“Our analyses […] align with the view that there are chronic cognitive consequences of having COVID-19,” wrote the study’s authors in a report about the study.

“It’s terrible but it isn’t all that surprising,” said Dr. Douglas Golenbock, the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at UMass Memorial Hospital.

The level of cognitive decline among those with the most serious cases are highlighted in the study, including the idea of the brain declining significantly as a result of the disease.

“I think that’s a rough estimate; we do not know what brain aging actually means,” said Dr. Michael Heneka, an adjunct professor of medicine at UMass Medical School.

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Dr. Shibani Mukerji is the associate director of Neuro-Infectious Diseases at Mass. General Hospital.

“The key thing to know, we don’t know what their cognitive function, their brain function was before COVID,” Dr. Mukerji said. “We need perspective study, we need patients enrolled in studies so […] where we understand who our population is and do long-term brain tests.”

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