Even Mild COVID Infection Linked To Brain Damage, Research Shows

“It is brain damage, but it is possible that it is reversible. But it is still relatively scary because it was in mildly infected people," says lead Oxford neuroscience researcher.

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Even mild cases of the China Virus are associated with tissue damage and loss in the brain’s overall volume, accelerated losses in brain regions tied to sense of smell, and a cognitive function deficit, a new British study finds.

The study by University of Oxford investigators published in Nature on Monday shows the brain scans of hundreds of COVID-infected British individuals is equivalent to at least one extra year of normal aging.

“It is brain damage, but it is possible that it is reversible,” said Gwenaëlle Douaud, an associate professor at Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. “But it is still relatively scary because it was in mildly infected people.”

The study compared the brain scans of 401 people between 51 and 81 years old to a control group of 384 U.K. Biobank participants who had not tested positive for COVID, and were matched according to the Covid-infected group’s numerous health metrics including weight, age, sex, and more.

The results showed a “significant” difference in brain matter thickness and tissue damage markers.

From the study “SARS-CoV-2 is associated with changes in brain structure in UK Biobank“:

We identified significant longitudinal effects when comparing the two groups, including: (i) greater reduction in grey matter thickness and tissue-contrast in the orbitofrontal cortex and parahippocampal gyrus, (ii) greater changes in markers of tissue damage in regions functionally-connected to the primary olfactory cortex, and (iii) greater reduction in global brain size. The infected participants also showed on average larger cognitive decline between the two timepoints.

NBC News claimed that the effects of the COVID injection can be ruled out because the COVID-positive participants were studied before the vaccines were “widely available.”

The overall brain volume in people with Covid declined by an extra 0.3 percent over those without the disease.

Older participants experienced all these excess brain-related declines more profoundly.

The study offers no indication whether a Covid vaccination would mitigate the risk of such changes. The participants tested positive for the disease between March 2020 and April 2021, before the vaccines were widely available in the U.K.

Dr. Steven Deeks, a veteran HIV researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, praised the Oxford researchers for finding “definitive clinical data” on the subject of COVID and brain function.

“This study provides the most definitive clinical data available to date that SARS-CoV-2 directly or indirectly damages nerves and that this, in turn, can have systemic effects, including changes in the brain,” Deeks said.

“It contributes to an emerging theme that nerve damage was common during the first few waves of the pandemic.”

Read the Oxford-led study:

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