In a new study, almost a quarter of people with COVID-19 reported symptoms of brain fog, including memory issues, months after their diagnosis.
The study, published last week in JAMA Network Open, includes survey responses from 740 people who’d had COVID-19 about their demographics and the cognitive symptoms they still experienced. On average, the participants were between seven and eight months out from their initial COVID-19 diagnosis.
Of those participants, nearly a quarter reported having issues with memory recall (23% of participants, 170 people) and memory encoding (24%, 178 participants). Participants also frequently reported having problems with executive functioning, processing speed, and verbal fluency.
Many of these issues may be symptoms of what’s colloquially referred to as brain fog, the study authors write. People who experience brain fog may find that they have trouble thinking or processing information clearly. They might have difficulty concentrating or find that it takes them longer than usual to complete certain mental tasks. Brain fog can be the result of mental health issues (such as anxiety, depression, or chronic stress) or certain underlying medical conditions (including multiple sclerosis).
This study is relatively small, but its findings are in line with those from previous studies. A study published about a year ago found that the majority of people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 experience some sort of neurological issues, including headaches and dizziness but also cognitive problems. And other research published in April found that even people whose illnesses aren’t severe enough to require hospitalization can still experience brain fog-like symptoms after COVID-19. In fact, that study found that a third of people who got the coronavirus developed neurological conditions within six months of their diagnosis.
It’s not clear yet why COVID-19 survivors are so likely to experience neurological symptoms, including those that might constitute brain fog. Researchers are still looking into whether it’s the coronavirus directly causing long-lasting cognitive issues or if brain fog might be related to the trauma associated with surviving a new viral illness in the midst of a global pandemic. As this research and other investigations into the mysteries of long COVID continue, we’ll hopefully learn more soon. In the meantime, another recent study showed that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 can significantly help prevent long COVID in the event of a breakthrough infection.
- A Third of COVID-19 Patients Develop a Mental Health or Neurological Condition Within Six Months
- Most Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients Experience Neurological Symptoms, According to New Research
- 7 Ways I Stay Alert and Productive Throughout the Day, Even With Brain Fog