Coronavirus causes ‘brain fog’ that can knock eight points off your IQ as if the mind has aged a decade, research suggests
- Experts warn survivors of some of the worst cases are at risk of mental damage
- Some have told of losing ability to recall everyday facts or hold a conversation
- Some survivors even recorded the equivalent of an 8.5-point drop in their IQ
Coronavirus could age the brain by ten years or cause IQ to fall, a study has suggested.
Researchers have warned that survivors of the worst cases of the virus could be at risk of lasting mental damage, equivalent to an 8.5-point drop in IQ or the brain ageing a decade.
This ‘brain fog’ has already been reported by sufferers for weeks, even months after recovering from Covid-19.
Some have told of losing the ability to recall everyday facts or hold a conversation.
Researchers have warned that survivors of the worst cases of the virus could be at risk of lasting mental damage, equivalent to an 8.5-point drop in IQ or the brain ageing a decade [File photo]
It could be a sign of ‘chronic cognitive consequences’, the scientists say.
The team, led by Imperial College London, analysed questionnaire answers from almost 85,000 people who had recovered from confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
They discovered that damage to the brain occurred in varying levels depending on how severe the disease had been.
Some patients, who had been treated in intensive care or who needed ventilation, recorded the equivalent of an 8.5-point drop in their IQ.
This is a big enough fall for an individual to notice an impact on their day-to-day life and job, the authors warn.
Lead author Adam Hampshire, from Imperial College London, said the ‘shocking’ findings did not apply only to patients who ended up in hospital.
Some who tested positive for the virus but had no breathing difficulties also recorded some cognitive decline after they recovered.
Those who recovered at home experienced an IQ drop of four points or the equivalent of ageing five years.
The team, which included scientists from Cambridge University, University of Chicago and King’s College London, also found that coronavirus survivors scored poorly on tests for spatial orientation, emotion processing and maintaining attention.
They were able to compare the test results to pre-Covid times because the 85,000 people sampled had already answered questions as part of the Great British Intelligence Test – providing a benchmark for IQ before the pandemic.
Some patients, who had been treated in intensive care or who needed ventilation, recorded the equivalent of an 8.5-point drop in their IQ [File photo]
The study says the results should act as a ‘clarion call’ for further studies on how coronavirus affects the brain.
The study reads: ‘Individuals who recovered from suspected or confirmed Covid-19 perform worse on cognitive tests in multiple domains than would be expected, given their details, age and demographic profiles.’
The researchers did point out that any time spent in intensive care or on a ventilator for any disease will have an impact on cognitive function.
The initial study was conducted in May, and the authors said further research is needed to establish how long this Covid-related ‘brain fog’ lasts.
Last month the Daily Mail spoke to Grace Dolman, a liver specialist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
The 40-year-old, who caught coronavirus in March, was forced to give up work in June due to the effects of ‘long Covid’. She said her concentration and memory are still poor.