By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 08 March 2022 • 15:32
Covid-19 can shrink and damage brain tissue
Researchers at the University of Oxford have completed the first major study to compare the brain scans of people before and after a Covid-19 infection, in which they found that it can shrink and damage the organ.
The study revealed shrinkage and tissue damage in regions linked to smell and mental capacities months after subjects tested positive.
The brains of 785 people aged between 51 and 81 who had received scans before and during the pandemic as part of the UK Biobank study, showed that than half of them tested positive for Covid-19 between the two scans.
Compared with 384 uninfected control subjects, those who tested positive for Covid-19 had greater overall brain shrinkage and more grey matter shrinkage, particularly in areas linked to smell.
Disrupted signal processing in areas of the brain may contribute to symptoms such as smell loss, with those who were infected typically scoring lower on a mental skills test than uninfected individuals.
Lower scores were associated with a greater loss of brain tissue in the parts of the cerebellum involved in mental ability.
As is to be expected the effects were more pronounced in older people and those hospitalised by the disease, but still evident in others whose infections were mild or asymptomatic.
The researchers say that more scans will be needed to determine whether these brain changes are permanent or reversible, either partially or fully.
Prof Gwenaëlle Douaud at the University of Oxford said: “The brain is plastic, which means that it can re-organise and heal itself to some extent, even in older people.”
The research is said to be very important in understanding what areas are affected by those infected with Covid-19, but far more research will be needed to determine why. More specifically research is needed to look into what causes the brain to shrink and where the damage of brain cells stem from.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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