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Covid might results in shrinking parts of brain: Research

by Pragati Singh
Brain Fog

BENGALURU: According to a research published this week in the journal Nature, Covid-19 causes some brain areas to shrink. Many neurologists are interested in learning more about the findings of this investigation. Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging conducted the investigation. They compared morphological changes in the brains of patients who recovered from largely mild instances of Covid with those who hadn’t contracted it, using magnetic resonance imaging obtained before and throughout the epidemic.

The study discovered Covid-related brain damage in smell-related areas, with a decline similar to a decade of normal ageing.  “The changes were also linked to cognitive decline,” the researchers stated in the study. Dr Sreekanta Swamy, Head of Neurology, Aster RV Hospital, told TNIE, “This is a very sophisticated study wherein MRI machines were all of the same type and same strength. According to this study, the brain shrinks by about less than 1 per cent, compared to before Covid infection, which is probably the reason why people develop fog, lack of concentration, lack of smell, etc.”

This study, he explained, provides an explanation for people who acquire ‘Long Covid’ symptoms. Memory and scent are controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain, therefore people complain of memory and concentration problems, as well as smell problems. According to neurologists, the research is significant because it may explain why and how damage is localised to the radius that causes symptoms.

Dr NK Venkataramana, Founder Chairman & Director, Neurosciences, Brains Hospital, said post-Covid, a variety of neurological problems and symptoms have been observed, including headache, migraine, epilepsy, stroke, Bell’s palsy, brain fog and acute demyelinating syndrome of the spinal cord. “However, we do not have the experience of testing them for the presence of a virus. To the best of our knowledge, there is no such study in India. This study is interesting and could become a guideline for any study in future,” he added.

Sridharan Devarajan, Associate Professor at the Centre for Neuroscience, IISc, says the study was well powered and has reasonable samples. He said he would probably dig deeper into the study. “Covid-19 is a SARS-CoV-2 virus and is known to attack the upper and lower respiratory tracts, depending on the variant. One question I would like to probe is whether the researchers looked into the patients’ comorbidities, which are also said to be a reason for susceptibility to Covid infection,” he said.

He went on to say that it would be fascinating to know how much of this has harmed brain function directly. If the virus has infected the lungs and respiratory tracts, it is possible that blood flow to the brain will be disrupted.

The brain is “plastic,” meaning it may reorganise itself by generating new neuronal connections to compensate for harm, according to the researchers. Injured brain cells can also be repaired under the appropriate conditions to help restore function, according to new research. Further study is needed to evaluate the influence of Covid-19 on the central nervous system and other organ systems in Long Covid patients, according to Indian researchers and neurologists.

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