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Corona episode dementia: Over 60-year-olds lose mental fitness

Corona episode dementia: Over 60-year-olds lose mental fitness


Infection with Sars-Coronavirus-2 can have a number of neurological consequences. Loss of smell and taste are characteristic symptoms of the infection. But headaches and persistent tiredness are also part of the consequences and are particularly feared if they continue for a long time after the acute illness. A new study by Chinese researchers in JAMA Neurology shows that a disease can have lasting consequences for cognitive health and performance, especially in the elderly.

More than one in ten seniors from Covid-19 long-term cognitively impaired

The team led by Yu-Hui Liu from the Chinese Army Medical University examined over 60-year-olds who were among the first to recover from the pandemic. They were infected in China at the beginning of 2020 and were treated in three special hospitals in the metropolis of Wuhan. Yu-Hui and colleagues interviewed and tested the study subjects at six months and a year after hospital discharge, and compared the results to a control group that was not infected. In total, the researchers were able to fully test 1,438 infected people and compare the results with 438 controls. In a telephone survey, the subjects had to solve simple memory and combination tasks and provide information about themselves and their health. It was found that around 12.5 percent of those infected had suffered cognitive impairments one year after discharge, which were not observed in the healthy controls.

Severity of the course of the disease influences cognitive performance

The severity of the impairment was related to the severity of the infection that had been overcome. The more severe the disease was, the earlier a decline in cognitive abilities could be observed, the researchers write. Around 3.3 percent of the corona survivors had dementia, 9.1 percent showed slight cognitive impairment. In contrast, among those who had experienced a severe course, the rate of dementia was 15 percent, and at least one in four (26.15 percent) complained of mild cognitive impairment. The researchers can only speculate on the exact causes of how the disease triggers the impairments. However, the mechanisms that also lead to neurological symptoms such as loss of smell or headaches are probably involved. Particularly problematic from the point of view of the scientists: The observed cognitive damage increased over time. The scientists therefore fear that the corona pandemic will be followed by a sharp increase in dementia among older survivors.

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