(ORDO NEWS) — A large new study has found that COVID-19 is associated with gray matter loss and increased damage to brain tissue in areas associated with cognition and smell.
In the study, scientists examined images of the brains of 785 people.
In the study, published in the journal Nature , scientists analyzed brain scans of 785 people aged 51 to 81, each scanned before and during the pandemic as part of the UK Biobank study.
Of those people, 401 tested positive for COVID-19 at some point between their first and second scans, allowing scientists to analyze how their brains changed in the months following infection. The remaining 384 people who did not contract the virus became the control group.
The comparison showed that people infected with the coronavirus had thinned gray matter in the orbitofrontal cortex and Para hippocampal gyrus, which play a key role in memory function.
Tissue damage has also been observed in the olfactory cortex, which coordinates the sense of smell, and an overall decrease in brain size has also been seen.
In addition, a number of tests have shown “significantly greater cognitive decline” in people who have recovered from COVID-19.
The researchers note that the changes in the brain were not critical and emphasize that the results “represent an average effect” and that “not every infected participant will have brain abnormalities.”
Comparison of “exhaustion” of a healthy brain and the brain of a person who has recovered from COVID-19
The analysis found an average gray matter loss of 0.7% in areas of the brain associated with smell in participants who had recovered from COVID-19.
At the same time, the volume of the Para hippocampus decreased by 1.3-1.8%. By comparison, the hippocampus typically shrinks by about 0.2% per year in healthy middle-aged adults and by about 0.3% per year in older adults.
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