Severe Covid Can Drop Your IQ 10 Points, Study Suggests
Severe Covid cases may cause cognitive impairment equivalent to aging 20 years and losing 10 IQ points, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, adding to a growing body of evidence that coronavirus infections can lead to long-term cognitive and mental health issues.
The study, published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, found survivors of severe Covid-19 infections had cognitive impairments similar to aging that occurs between the ages of 50 to 70.
Cognitive impairments were even worse for those who had been put on a ventilator while they were infected, researchers found.
The study compared 46 patients between the ages of 28 to 83, who were hospitalized between March 10 to July 31 2021, to more than 66,000 members of the general public, and found cognitive impairments for those with severe Covid sometimes persisted more than six months, and patients improved slowly, if at all.
The results suggest patients recovering from severe coronavirus infections may need longer-term care for cognitive deficits, according to the researchers.
“Cognitive impairment is common to a wide range of neurological disorders, including dementia, and even routine [aging]
, but the patterns we saw—the cognitive ‘fingerprint’ of COVID-19—was distinct from all of these,” the study’s senior author, David Menon, a professor at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.
A growing body of research shows people recovering from severe Covid can experience a range of long-term mental health and cognitive symptoms including depression, anxiety, brain fog, fatigue and other issues. A study of 740 people with no history of memory problems conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in October 2021 found some patients treated for Covid still had high rates of brain fog more than seven months after diagnosis. Previous studies have also shown unvaccinated people are more likely to develop long-term Covid symptoms than those who are vaccinated. The study from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London is one of the first comprehensive inquiries into the long-term effects of severe Covid, finding that the severity of a coronavirus infection is linked to the severity of the after effects.
What We Don’t Know
Exactly what causes long-term Covid cognitive effects. The body’s inflammatory response and immune system are potential pathways, but researchers said future studies should focus on “mapping” cognitive deficits to underlying issues in the body and inflammatory biomarkers.