How COVID-19 Compromises Brain Function

A full year has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the mind-boggling aftermath of the virus continues to confuse doctors and scientists. Particularly concerning for doctors and patients alike are lingering side effects, such as memory loss, reduced attention and an inability to think straight.

Wondering how a respiratory virus can lead to cognitive effects that last for weeks? It turns out, some sort of mental fallout after an infectious illness is not uncommon.

“What we’re seeing with COVID-19 is similar to infectious complications we’ve seen with other viruses, such as SARS and H1N1,” explains Dr. Rachel Zabner, an infectious disease specialist and co-director of Cedars-Sinai’s COVID-19 Recovery Program along with Dr. Catherine Le.

It may be months before the data provides a clear picture of this post-COVID-19 “brain fog,” but experts suspect that the stress of navigating COVID-19 coupled with the virus’s physical toll on the body is resulting in a significant cognitive hit for a subset of patients.

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