News in Context: COVID-19 and Cognitive Changes
Friday, 15th January 2021

Even as COVID-19 vaccinations roll out across the country, offering hope for an end to the pandemic, we continue to learn about the virus and its effects. One of the more recent understandings is that some people experience prolonged symptoms, including memory and thinking (cognitive) changes, following COVID-19 infection. Some describe brain fog, difficulty focusing, or memory loss or speech changes.

This increasing evidence of COVID-19’s potential effect on the brain is, of course, worrisome. And raises many questions: How and why does this happen? Who is most at risk? How long do symptoms last? What, if any, are the long-term impacts?

“It may range from some effects that are temporary to some that may be permanent, including loss of certain circuits that may not come back,” Malú Tansey, PhD, MJFF Scientific Advisor and Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology at the University of Florida told The Wall Street Journal. She adds, “We’ll have to see. It’ll be a matter of time and trying to test it.” (Watch the full video discussion.)

This idea is preliminary. And ongoing research will examine the course of COVID-19 over time. The Michael J. Fox Foundation, through the the online Fox Insight research study, is gathering data on COVID-19 and Parkinson’s. (Learn more and contribute your experiences.) And early results from this ongoing survey showed that many – even those who did not contract COVID-19 – are experiencing increased cognitive (and other) symptoms. (Watch our webinar for more.) This could be due to decreased social interactions or doctor visits, increased mood or sleep problems, or other pandemic-related changes.

As evidence and understanding continue to grow and evolve, the best way to care for yourself is to avoid infection as much as possible (with handwashing, mask-wearing and social distancing), get a COVID-19 vaccination when available, keep your body and mind active, and let your doctor know if you or your loved ones notice new or increasing symptoms.

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Source: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research