The symptomatic COVID-19 infection is associated with cognitive dysfunction as well as psychiatric symptoms


Converging findings from laboratory and population survey data support the conclusion that symptomatic COVID-19 infection is associated with task-related, functional imaging and self-reported indices of cognitive dysfunction as well as psychiatric symptoms.

In some cases, these findings appear to be more amplified among women than men, and among older women than younger.

The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Brain, Behavior, Immunity and Health.

Several plausible mechanisms linking COVID-19 to brain injury have been identified including vascular damage, thrombosis, megakaryocyte invasion and cytokine storm (Boldrini et al., 2021; Nauen et al., 2021; Solomon, 2021).

Evidence from a laboratory study and an interlinked population survey support the hypothesis that COVID-19 is associated with both cognitive dysfunction and psychiatric symptoms.

Cognitive effects were evident at the level of self-reported symptoms, task performance differences, and task-related cerebral oxygenation levels within the prefrontal cortex.

The specific pattern of findings suggests that delay discounting and executive functions may be most affected, and that cognitive symptoms and psychiatric symptoms may be mechanistically interlinked over time among those with symptomatic COVID-19 history.

Additionally, our findings in relation to Flanker task performance were consistent with prior literature that older adult females are the most likely to be impacted by PCS symptoms (Hanson et al., 2022).

The mechanisms by which symptomatic COVID-19 affects the brain as a function of biological sex characteristics is an important topic for future study. This being said, associations between COVID-19 history and both primary outcomes were evident at the population level even after controlling for sex and other demographic factors.

Finally, the attenuating effect of vaccination on the association between symptomatic COVID-19 and psychiatric symptoms warrants further exploration in subsequent studies.

Although the effect was statistically marginal in the current sample, if replicable in other studies and larger datasets, policy and practice implications would be evident with respect to vaccination efforts even as mortality from COVID-19 declines.


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