COVID-19 patients who receive "oxygen therapy" or experience fever may witness "gray matter volume" reduction in the frontal-temporal network of the brain, says a new study conducted by researchers at Georgia State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Gray matter is vital for processing information in the brain and its abnormality may affect how well neurons function and communicate.
India has been badly hit by coronavirus, leading to exponential rise in total cases and subsequent deaths. Many patients who recovered were also diagnosed with black fungus. "People with severe cases of Covid-19 who require oxygen and/or ventilator support with prolonged hospitalisation seem to be at a higher risk of developing neurological symptoms," Dr Pavan Pai, neurologist, Wockhardt Hospital, told IndiaToday.In.
The study claims lower gray matter volume in the frontal-temporal network of the brain has been associated with a higher-level of disability among COVID-19 patients, even six months after hospital discharge, the study revealed.
The study, published in the Neurobiology of Stress journal, indicates gray matter in the frontal network could represent a core region for brain involvement in COVID-19, even beyond damage related to clinical manifestations of the disease, such as stroke.
The researchers, who are affiliated with the university's Center for Translational Research in Neuroimaging and Data Science (TReNDS), analysed computed tomography scans in 120 neurological patients, including 58 with acute COVID-19 and 62 without COVID-19, matched for age, gender and disease.
"Science has shown that the brain's structure affects its function, and abnormal brain imaging has emerged as a major feature of COVID-19," said Kuaikuai Duan, the study's first author, a graduate research assistant at TReNDS and PhD student in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The analysis showed patients with higher levels of disability had lower gray matter volume. Gray matter volume was also significantly reduced in patients receiving oxygen therapy compared to patients not receiving oxygen therapy. Patients with fever had a significant reduction in gray matter volume in the inferior and middle temporal gyri and the fusiform gyrus compared to patients without fever. The results suggest COVID-19 may affect the frontal-temporal network through fever or lack of oxygen.
Reduced gray matter in the superior, medial and middle frontal gyri was also present in patients with agitation compared to patients without agitation. This implies that gray matter changes in the frontal region of the brain may underlie the mood disturbances commonly exhibited by COVID-19 patients.