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How Does COVID Affect Your Brain? Accelerated Brain Aging, Long-term Neuro Conditions Reported

According to data updated by the Union Health Ministry this morning, 14,092 new COVID-19 cases occurred in India in the last 24 hours. A total of 1,16,861 active cases have been reported in the past 24 hours, down by 2,403 cases. Additionally, 41 additional deaths have been reported, including 12 that have been reconciled by Kerala. The total number of deaths is 5,27,037 [1].

New research demonstrates that SARS-COV-2 infects brain cells called astrocytes, causing structural changes in the brain. This infection may lead to brain alterations and neurocognitive dysfunction.

This article will explore the impact of covid on the brain based on three recent studies.

How Does COVID Affect Your Brain? Important Points

Study 1: NIH

  • A study from the National Institutes of Health describes the immune response triggered by COVID-19 infection that damages the brain's blood vessels and may result in short- or long-term neurological symptoms [2]. Researchers examined brain changes in nine people who died suddenly after contracting the disease in a study published in Brain.
  • Scientists have found evidence that antibodies, proteins produced by the immune system in response to viruses and other invaders, attack and damage the cells lining the brain's blood vessels.
  • Antibodies produced by COVID-19 could mistakenly target blood-brain barrier cells. A blood-brain barrier is formed by tightly packed endothelial cells, which prevent harmful substances from reaching the brain while allowing necessary substances to pass. Blood proteins can leak from brain vessels if endothelial cells are damaged. As a result, some COVID-19 patients experience bleeds and clots, leading to strokes.
  • In the brains of COVID-19 patients, researchers observed deposits of immune complexes, which form when antibodies bind antigens (foreign substances). Such immune complexes can be harmful to tissues by triggering inflammation.
  • Understanding how SARS-CoV-2 can cause brain damage can assist in developing therapies for COVID-19 patients with lingering neurological symptoms.
  • Additionally, the study may help to understand and treat long-term neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19, such as headaches, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, sleep disorders, and brain fog. The researchers believe that the patients in the study would have developed Long COVID had they survived.
  • Based on the findings of this study, treatments designed to prevent the development of the immune complexes observed in the study may be helpful in treating neurological symptoms following COVID.

Study 2: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

  • According to Daniel Martins-de-Souza and colleagues, MRI was used to compare brain structure in 81 participants recovering from mild COVID-19 infection and 81 healthy individuals. According to the authors, the former group was associated with reduced cortical thickness, cognitive impairments, and anxiety and depression symptoms [3].
  • Using brain samples from 26 individuals who had died of COVID-19, the authors found that five of these individuals had tissue damage.
  • SARS-CoV-2 was also found to enter damaged brain samples through the NRP1 receptor in astrocytes and sustains neuronal metabolism.
  • More than 30 per cent of patients with COVID-19 experience neurological symptoms as a consequence of COVID-19, making the study significant. As a result of this study, we present evidence that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infects astrocytes and neurons to a lesser extent in the human brain.

Study 3: Houston Methodist Researchers

  • According to a new study by Houston Methodist researchers, COVID-19 infections may have both short- and long-term neurological effects [4].
  • COVID-19 infections may predispose individuals to develop irreversible neurological conditions, increase the likelihood of strokes, and increase the risk of persistent brain lesions that can result in brain bleeding.
  • The authors of this study have critically evaluated the possible chronic neuropathological outcomes in ageing and comorbid populations in the absence of timely therapeutic intervention.
  • The Houston Methodist review article analysed several severe long-term effects, including predispositions to Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and related neurodegenerative diseases, as well as cardiovascular disorders due to internal bleeding and blood clotting-induced lesions in the part of the brain that regulates our respiratory system, following COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Further, COVID-19 patients are believed to have accelerated cellular ageing [5].

On A Final Note...

In summary, the findings provide insight into the immune response that damages the brain after infection with COVID-19. However, it is unclear what antigen the immune response targets, as no virus was detected in the brain.

Additionally, although increasing evidence confirms that neuropsychiatric manifestations are associated primarily with severe COVID-19 infections, long-term neuropsychiatric dysfunction has been observed frequently after mild infections.

Researchers are currently investigating the effects of COVID-19 infection on various aspects of the central nervous system. Experts insist that getting vaccinated and maintaining proper hygiene are the best ways to prevent such long-term and detrimental effects.

Story first published: Monday, August 15, 2022, 11:41 [IST]
Read more about: covid brain covid 19
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