‘Brain fog’ caused by Covid may result from how the virus affects a person’s spinal fluid
The development of memory loss and cognitive problems, often referred to as ‘brain fog’, due to Covid infection, may be related to the way the virus affects a person’s spine.
A research team from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) analyzed the cerebrospinal fluid of Covid survivors to determine whether the causes of the brain fog were similar to those of other cognitive disorders.
They found elevated levels of proteins in the fluid of some Covid survivors, indicating that some inflammation was occurring as a result of an immune response to the virus.
While ‘long Covid’ is a mysterious condition that can manifest itself in many ways, researchers are slowly putting the pieces together. Many long-term side effects a person feels from the virus are linked to inflammation of various organs as an immune response.
Researchers found that “brain fog” — or cognitive problems people face after Covid infection — can result from antibodies and inflammation affecting a person’s cerebrospinal fluid. Many symptoms of ‘prolonged Covid’ have been linked to inflammation of various organs as an immune response to the virus (file photo)
“It is possible that the immune system, stimulated by the virus, may function in an unintended pathological manner,” said Dr. Joanna Hellmuth, senior author of the study and researchers at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, in a statement.
Researchers, who published their findings Wednesday in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, recruited 32 Covid survivors for the study. None of the participants had a case of the virus so severe that hospitalization was necessary.
Of the study group, 22 patients reported cognitive problems after infection, while the other ten served as a control group.
Lumbar punctures, in which a needle is inserted into a person’s spine to collect fluid, in 17 participants, 13 of whom had cognitive symptoms.
Ten of the 13 patients in the brain fog group showed abnormalities in their cerebrospinal fluid, including elevated protein levels and the prevalence of antibodies they hadn’t expected to be present.
None of the four patients whose fluids were analyzed and experienced no cognitive symptoms were found to have the antibodies or elevated protein levels.
The research team is hopeful that their results will help doctors and scientists better understand why people experience brain fog as a result of Covid infection.
Experiencing brain fog can be devastating and potentially life-changing for some.
“They manifest as problems remembering recent events, coming up with names or words, staying focused and problems retaining and manipulating information, as well as slowed processing speed,” Hellmuth said of people struggling with brain fog.
A young, healthy person with a perfectly functional brain can suddenly have problems with basic memory and cognition.
It can affect them in their daily lives and harm their work performance. In the most severe cases, it can prevent a person from participating in daily activities.
Brain fog is not the only common symptom associated with ‘long Covid’. Some people report severe fatigue, leaving them bedridden for months in the worst cases.
Others also report prolonged anosmia and parosmia, body aches, headaches and even psychiatric symptoms in rare cases.
It’s also a condition that’s more common in people who suffer from milder cases of Covid, meaning younger, healthier people are most at risk.
“A very large proportion of people who developed Covid for a long time had relatively mild initial infections and in some cases were even asymptomatic,” said Dr. Noah Greenspan, a New York City pulmonologist who runs a long-term Covid clinic in the city, told DailyMail. com.
“Conversely, while many patients who had serious initial infections, even if they ended up in intensive care or on a ventilator, have a long-term recovery, I wouldn’t think of them as long-term people as people who develop new symptoms, additional symptoms, or worsening of symptoms, weeks or months after recovering from their acute infection.
‘My experience is that these patients can often recover even more predictably than lung transporters.’
Greenspan previously told DailyMail.com that about 30 percent of Covid patients will develop Covid in some form for a long time.