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Virus (symbolic image): Even years after an infection, brain function can be impaired as a result of Long Covid

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Officially, the corona pandemic is over – but many people are still feeling the consequences of an infection. Extreme exhaustion, forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating are among the symptoms that people with Long Covid have and that can significantly limit their everyday life. A study now shows that the symptoms can persist. Even after an infection, the brain function of Long Covid can be impaired if the sufferers have had severe symptoms for several weeks, researchers write.

The study was published last week in the journal »The Lancet«, reported by the »Guardian«. Scientists at King's College London have conducted tests to test the cognitive performance of test subjects. In twelve tasks, for example, memory ability, processing speed, attention and motor control were tested.

The subjects of the Covid Symptom Study Biobank completed two online tests via smartphone app: one in 2021 and one last year. About 3300 people took part in the first round, and about 2500 in the second. In the second round of testing, the participants' initial infection was on average almost two years ago. The study included people with and without a Covid infection, and the symptoms lasted for different lengths of time.

However, the composition of the subjects in the experimental groups is not representative, according to the study. By Long Covid, the authors mean symptoms that persist for more than four or twelve weeks in connection with a corona infection.

The result of the first round of testing: Study participants who stated that they had symptoms for twelve weeks or longer in the aftermath of a corona infection had the strongest cognitive deficits. These deficits are comparable to an increase in age of ten years, the authors write.

According to the researchers, however, people who stated that they had fully recovered had no deficits. They performed similarly to those who said they had not been infected with Covid-19.

In the second round of testing, the researchers found no signs of a change in cognitive performance – neither an improvement nor a deterioration, according to the study. "Our results suggest that in people who lived with long-term symptoms after a Covid-19 infection, the effects of the coronavirus on mental processes are still detectable on average almost two years after the initial infection," said lead author Nathan Cheetham in a statement. It is about the ability to remember words and shapes.

What may reassure some: The performance of people who felt fully recovered was no longer impaired – even if they had previously had symptoms for several months.