How even a mild infection can affect your brain

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A new study explores possible links between Covid-19 infection and changes in the brain.

loss of taste and/or OdorConfusion or delirium, loss of bearings, migraines, ‘mental fog’ … We now know that the neurological manifestations of Covid-19 can be very diverse. What we know less about is the medium and long-term consequences of infection, even if mild or asymptomatic, on the state of our brain.

This is a question that a team of researchers from Oxford University and Imperial College London investigated in a new study published in preprint (and thus not validated by colleagues). MedRxiv. The results of their work suggest that even a minor infection with Covid-19 can do just that permanent change in brain structure.

Effects of Covid-19 on the brain

To build their study, the researchers relied on data from the UK Biobank, a large British medical database active since 2006 and dedicated to research. They analyzed and documented brain changes in patients who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before and after infection with Covid, and compared the results obtained with those of a control group of individuals without a history of the virus.

Thus, of the 782 participants in their study, 394 participants tested positive for Covid-19 between March 2020 and April 2021. Another 388 were not sick and took the same test for comparison. By comparing the results obtained, the researchers say that they have highlighted them “Loss of gray matter” Specific parts of the brain in affected people, between the two images. No change was reported by the test group.

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Gray matter loss?

In detail, this loss of gray matter would particularly affect the left parahippocampal gyrus, the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the left insular cortex. The areas that partly control memory and emotional reactions … in addition to certain sensory functions such as taste and smell, determine the specialized location IFL Science.

In the remainder of their study, the researchers identified that differences “It wasn’t great” Among those who were hospitalized during infection (15 people) and those who were not (the other 379 people). This indicates that the severity of the infection does not play a major role in the extent of changes in the brain.

If the study results seem convincing, the reason why Covid-19 affects gray matter remains unclear. Researchers are unsure whether this phenomenon is the direct result of infection, believing that it may be the result of inflammation or other factors. They say more research is needed to understand the relationship between the virus and the changes in the brain observed during this study.

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