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Severe COVID-19 Adds 20 Years of Cognitive Aging: Study


Cognitive impairment from severe COVID-19 is equivalent to 20 years of ageing, report scientists behind a new study, adding that the impairment is "equivalent to losing 10 IQ points". In their study, published in eClinicalMedicine, a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London said there is growing evidence that COVID-19 can cause lasting cognitive and mental health problems. Patients report fatigue, 'brain fog', problems recalling words, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) months after infection. The study analysed data from 46 individuals who received critical care for COVID-19 at Addenbrooke’s Hospital between March and July 2020 (27 females, 19 males, mean age 51 years, 16 of whom had mechanical ventilation) and recruited to the NIHR COVID-19 BioResource project. At an average of 6 months after acute COVID-19 illness, the study participants underwent detailed computerised cognitive tests using the Cognitron platform, comprising eight tasks deployed on an iPad measuring mental function such as memory, attention, and reasoning. Also assessed were anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder using standard mood, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress scales - specifically the Generalised Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD-7), the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9), and the PTSD Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (PCL-5). Their data were compared against 460 controls - matched for age, sex, education, and first language - and the pattern of deficits across tasks was qualitatively compared with normal age-related decline and early-stage dementia.



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