New studies show COVID-19 can damage the brain

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New studies show COVID-19 can damage the brain and even cause long term problems with thinking and memory.

Medical experts said this can affect people with mild or extreme cases.

“Patients even with mild illnesses that don’t require hospitalizations, patients that might have been healthy before they got sick, and even younger patients may develop these complications,” said Dr. Shirin Mazumder.

Dr. Mazumder is an infectious disease specialist at Methodist-Le Bonheur Healthcare.

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She said some studies suggest the virus can invade the central nervous system but she believes the coronavirus triggers an immune response that causes brain damage.

“They will complain of difficulty with cognitive issues like difficulty concentrating, difficulty with memory. A lot of patients will use the term brain fog where they just can’t think clearly,” said Dr. Mazumder.

Other COVID-19 patients could face more serious issues.

Dr. Ron Cowan is a Psychiatrist who is the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at UTHSC. He said some patients even experience strokes.

“Some people will have strokes with COVID-19 because it increases clotting in the brain or bleeding in the brain,” said Dr. Cowan.

Dr. Cowan said it’s also possible for people to experience psychosis where people hear voices or feel paranoid.

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Right now, researchers are forming a study to look into the long term effects of COVID-19 on the brain.

It’s a necessary step to help medical experts understand the virus better.

“Certainly it’s important. It could affect the brain permanently with a stroke and other conditions,” said Dr. Cowan. “There will be permanent effects and we don’t know how long the others will last.”

The most common neurological symptom is when people lose their taste or smell.

Medical experts said it takes some people several months to get their sense of smell and taste back but again, each person can experience COVID-19 very differently.

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