Researchers from King’s College London have recently published a study in the journal eClinicalMedicine, shedding light on the long-term effects of COVID-19 on cognitive function. They investigated over 3,000 participants from the COVID Symptom Study Biobank study through two rounds of online cognitive testing in 2021 and 2022.
The study focused on various mental processes such as memory, attention, reasoning, processing speed, and motor control. Participants who experienced COVID-19 symptoms for 12 weeks or more showed reduced performance in these tasks, comparable to the impact of a 10-year increase in age. Interestingly, there was no significant improvement in test scores between the two rounds of testing, which occurred nine months apart. This indicates that the effects on cognitive function persisted even almost two years after the initial infection.
Digging deeper, the researchers found that those who felt fully recovered after COVID-19 infection performed similarly to individuals who hadn’t contracted the virus at all. On the other hand, participants who didn’t feel fully recovered after the infection had lower accuracy scores in the cognitive tasks.
Dr. Nathan Cheetham, the lead author of the study, highlighted the importance of monitoring individuals whose brain function was most affected by COVID-19 to support their recovery. Meanwhile, Professor Claire Steves emphasized that even after nearly two years since their first infection, some people still didn’t feel fully recovered, underscoring the need for further research to understand and address the long-term effects of COVID-19 on cognitive function.