Patients Develop Cognitive and Behavioral Issues After COVID-19 Infection

Greater disease severity was associated with low executive functioning.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Scientific Institute and University Vita-Salute in Milan has discovered that patients with a COVID-19 infection were seen to suffer from cognitive and behavioral issues 2 months after being discharged from the hospital.

Results from the study were published in the European Journal of Neurology and were presented at the 7th Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN).

"Our study has confirmed significant cognitive and behavioral problems are associated with COVID-19 and persist several months after remission of the disease,” Massimo Filippi, lead author on the study said. "A particularly alarming finding is the changes to executive function we found, which can make it difficult for people to concentrate, plan, think flexibly and remember things. These symptoms affected three in 4 younger patients who were of a working age".

For the study, the team of investigators tested for neurocognitive abilities and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to take brain scans of patients who experienced COVID-19 symptoms 2 months after their initial infection.

A longitudinal observation was also conducted at 10 months from their infection.

Findings from the study showed that over 50% of the patients experienced cognitive disturbances. Of those, 16% had issues with executive functioning, 6% had visuospatial problems, another 6% had impaired memory and 25% experienced a combination of symptoms.

Additionally, at the 10 month follow up, the cognitive disturbances were reduced from 53% to 36%. However, many had a persisting presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and symptoms of depression.

"Larger studies and longer-term follow up are both needed, but this study suggests that COVID-19 is associated with significant cognitive and psychopathological problems," Elisa Canu, first author on the study said. "Appropriate follow-up and treatments are crucial to ensure these previously hospitalized patients are given adequate support to help to alleviate these symptoms."