New research shows that COVID-19 negatively impacts memory function

COVID-19 may have a negative impact on short-term memory function, results of a new study have revealed.

Researchers say memory function can recover over time, but those with ongoing COVID symptoms may continue to experience difficulties.

The team, from Hull York Medical School, used an anonymous online survey that included a memory quiz that could be completed quickly using smartphones, tablets and computers.

brain fog

Many people with COVID-19 say they experience what is often described as “brain fog” with problems remembering, concentrating and performing daily tasks. Additionally, there is growing concern about long-term COVID – where people experience ongoing symptoms for months after infection.

More than 5,400 participants participated in the study between December 8, 2020 and July 5, 2021, with 68.6% of respondents having never had COVID-19 and 31.4% having had the disease.

The investigators say it was clear from the analysis that there was a significant reduction in memory scores across all COVID-19 groups (self-reported, tested positive, and hospitalized) compared to non-COVID-19 groups.

Factors that significantly affected memory scores were found to be COVID-19 status, age, time post-COVID-19, and whether subjects were experiencing ongoing symptoms.

Memory scores for all COVID groups combined were significantly reduced compared to the non-COVID group across all ages 25 years and older, but not for the youngest age category, 18-24 years.

The study also found that memory scores gradually increased over a 17-month post-COVID-19 period. However, those with ongoing COVID-19 symptoms continued to show a reduction in memory scores.

neurological consequences

Heidi Baseler, Senior Lecturer in Imaging Sciences at Hull York Medical School, University of York, who was the study’s first author, said: “While it is known that COVID-19 affects the respiratory system, it is perhaps lesser known that it can also have neurological consequences and affect cognitive function such as memory.”

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The Doctor. Aziz Asghar, Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience at Hull York Medical School, University of Hull, and co-author of the study, added: “While previous studies have demonstrated a relationship between COVID-19 and cognitive function, they have involved long surveys with multiple tasks.”

“We wanted to develop a survey that involved the widest possible audience to allow us to quickly assess the impact of COVID-19 specifically on working memory function.”

Working memory is a form of short-term memory. It is essential for everyday life and allows us to store and retrieve information while performing tasks such as problem solving, reading and conversation. The impact on an individual of reduced working memory function is significant.

Heidi Baseler added: “What the study demonstrates is that COVID-19 has a negative impact on working memory or short-term memory function, but only in adults aged 25 years and older.”

“While the survey suggests that memory function with COVID-19 may recover over time, our findings indicate that those with ongoing symptoms may continue to experience difficulties with short-term memory.”

The Doctor. Abayomi Salawu, Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine at University Hospital of Hull NHS Trust, said: “These results will inform current clinical practice on how to assess memory dysfunction in patients with COVID. Once the survey/memory questionnaire can be completed quickly, it can also be used in patients with limited attention spans or those with other conditions that affect memory, such as dementia.”

The research was published in PLOS ONE.

Fonte: Medical Xpress / University of York

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