Memory Deficits Seen in Individuals With 'Long COVID'

Deficits increased with severity of ongoing self-reported symptoms; severity of initial illness did not influence later cognitive performance

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TUESDAY, March 29, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals with "long COVID" have memory deficits, with increased deficits seen in association with the severity of ongoing self-reported symptoms, according to research published online March 17 in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

Panyuan Guo, from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues reviewed results from the mixed cross-sectional/longitudinal study, the COVID and Cognition Study, to examine how factors associated with COVID-19 infection may impact performance on cognitive tests. Data were included for 181 participants who had experienced COVID-19 infection (74 percent of whom self-identified as experiencing long-COVID) and 185 who had not. Participants were assessed on a range of cognitive tasks intended to cover aspects of memory, language, and executive functions.

The researchers observed a consistent pattern of memory deficits among those who had experienced COVID-19 infection; specifically, increased reaction time was seen when performing a verbal memory task. Deficits increased with the severity of ongoing self-reported symptoms, specifically in verbal memory. Cognitive performance was predicted by fatigue/mixed symptoms during the initial illness and ongoing neurological symptoms; the reported severity of initial illness did not influence later performance on cognitive tasks.

"Long COVID has received very little attention politically or medically. It urgently needs to be taken more seriously, and cognitive issues are an important part of this," a coauthor said in a statement. "When politicians talk about 'Living with COVID' -- that is, unmitigated infection, this is something they ignore. The impact on the working population could be huge."

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