A new study from the UK has shown substantial loss of grey matter in the brains of those individuals who had recovered from COVID-19 infection. According to experts, the loss of grey matter is an indication of damage to certain areas of the brain. The UK study had analysed brain scans of individuals before and after they got infected with COVID-19. The findings of the study were published on medRxiv on June 15.
Grey matter is an essential part of the human body as it processes information in the brain. It enables people to control movement, memory, and emotions. An abnormality in the grey matter of the brain can affect the functioning of neurons and communication.
The UK study was not the first which has suggested a connection between COVID-19 and brain damage. Last year, the Lancet Psychiatry journal published a study that stated that serious COVID-19 infection can potentially damage the brain leading to complications such as stroke or dementia-like symptoms. Several neurologists have also warned that COVID-19 is not just a respiratory infection, it can also affect the brain in some cases, according to India Today.
The UK study was conducted by UK Biobank (UKB) which is a data centre for genetic and health information. UKB had performed tests on over 40,000 participants before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world. Among these participants, UKB invited hundreds of them back for a second imaging visit in 2021.
The researchers then studied the effects of COVID-19 infection on the brain by utilising data from 782 participants from the study. Among these, were 404 individuals who had recovered from COVID-19, however, only 394 had usable brain scans. The scientists utilised structural and functional brain scans from before and after the COVID infection, to compare changes in the brain between these 394 individuals. The researchers also studied brain scans of 388 controls (individuals who were COVID-19 negative) who were matched for sex, age, ethnicity and interval between scans with COVID-19 infected participants.
Most of the COVID-19 patients whose scans were studied had mild to moderate infection.
The results of the UK study suggest that there is a loss of grey matter in the areas of the brain associated with smell/taste and cognitive function and memory. "All significant results were found in the primary or secondary cortical gustatory and olfactory areas, in the left hemisphere, using grey matter information (volume, thickness)," the study noted.
"The converging longitudinal analyses revealed a significant, deleterious impact of Covid-19 on the olfactory and gustatory cortical systems, with a more pronounced reduction of grey matter thickness and volume in the left parahippocampal gyrus, the left superior (dorsal) insula and the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex in the Covid patients," the research findings showed. The study is yet to be peer-reviewed.
(Edited by Mohammad Haaris Beg)
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