Many Survivors of COVID-19 Will Experience Cognitive Complications

March 4, 2021
Killian Meara

Neurotropic capacities of SARS-CoV-2 makes it a potent factor to cause acute and late neurological effects.

A recent research review conducted by investigators from Oxford Brookes University has discovered that a large proportion of survivors from COVID-19 will be impacted by both cognitive and neuropsychiatric complications. The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

A team of psychologists and psychiatrists evaluated published research so that they could gain a more thorough understanding of the potential impacts that COVID-19 has on the brain and what individuals can expect both in long and short term mental health issues.

"Understanding the neuropsychiatric and cognitive consequences of COVID-19 is important as millions of people have been affected by the virus, and many cases go undetected,” Sanjay Kumar, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University said. “These conditions affect people's capacity to work effectively, drive, manage finances, make informed decisions and participate in daily family activities.”

Findings from the review discovered that people may experience a wide range of neuropsychiatric issues in the short term. A study that evaluated stable COVID-19 patients showed that 95% had post-traumatic stress disorder, with other studies finding that between 17% and 42% experienced affective disorders like depression. The highest reported short-term issue was impaired attention and memory, with between 13% and 28% experiencing them.

For the long-term, it was found that 44% of patients reported fatigue and impaired attention. Between 28% and 50% of patients also reported long-term memory impairment. The investigators said that there would most likely be an increase in patients with these issues who were otherwise healthy before the COVID-19 infection.

"We are already seeing an impact of COVID -19 on mental health. Patients are presenting with Long COVID syndrome which includes fatigue, cognitive problems and a range of psychiatric problems,” Tina Malhotra, a Consultant Psychiatrist working in Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said. "It is estimated that these problems are experienced by 1 in 5 people who have had COVID. Management of such patients in long-covid clinics should involve a multidisciplinary team including psychiatrists.”