Mild COVID cases still lead to problems with attention and memory – study


A health worker closes the door of an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in London, Britain January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters) – People with mild COVID-19 who have no other traditional “long COVID” symptoms may still show impaired attention and memory six to nine months after infection, according to a study by the British University of Oxford.

Cognitive problems affecting concentration levels, along with forgetfulness and fatigue, are hallmarks of long COVID – a condition that afflicts some after a first episode of infection – but it has not been established how much. Attention span issues could be prevalent after COVID-19 infection.

In the study, participants who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 but had not reported other traditional long symptoms of COVID were asked to perform exercises to test their memory and cognitive abilities.

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Researchers found that participants remembered their personal experiences, called episodic memory, significantly worse for up to six months after infection.

They also had a greater decrease in their ability to maintain attention over time than uninfected individuals up to nine months after infection.

“What is surprising is that although our COVID-19 survivors no longer felt symptomatic at the time of testing, they showed impaired attention and memory,” said Dr. Sijia Zhao from the Department of Psychology. experimental at the University of Oxford.

“Our results reveal that people can experience chronic cognitive consequences for months.”

The researchers said that over time, individuals demonstrated that episodic memory and attention span largely returned to normal after six and nine months, respectively.

Participants also performed well in tests of other cognitive abilities, including working memory and planning, in the analysis of 136 participants.

Stephen Burgess from the University of Cambridge’s MRC Biostatistics Unit pointed to the small number of people involved in the study, adding that it was not randomised.

“However, despite this, the differences between the COVID and non-COVID groups in terms of several specific measures of cognitive abilities examined in this study were striking,” he said.

“Despite the limitations of the non-randomised research, it seems unlikely that these findings can be explained by systematic differences between the groups unrelated to COVID infection.”

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Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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