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Scientists trying to find if video games can help treat Covid-19 brain fog

New clinical research by scientists of Weill Cornell Medicine is trying to determine whether video game-based therapy can help recover COVID-19 patients with cognitive disorder symptoms.

Akarsh Verma | April 25, 2021 | Updated 17:37 IST
Representative image (Image: Unsplash)

Highlights

  • Some Covid-19 patients experience brain fog even after successfully recovering from Covid-19.
  • The symptoms include loss of taste and smell, fatigue, insomnia, and headaches for weeks or months after infection.
  • Scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine are trying to determine if video games can help those with lingering memory and attention problems.

A small percentage of people never seem fully recover from Covid-19. These patients, dubbed 'long-haulers,' continue to experience symptoms such as loss of taste and smell, fatigue, insomnia, and headaches, for weeks if not months after infection. Some people also have trouble with memory and concentration. While there has been limited research on the causes of this effect of COVID-19, there has been even less research on how to treat it properly.

A team of scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine is testing a prescription video game to see if it can help people who have lingering memory and attention problems described as 'Brian Fog' after recovering from COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) defines brain fog as having difficulty thinking or concentrating and lists it as a possible lingering symptom after recovering from Covid-19 infection. Brain fog can also include confusion and a slowed ability to process information.
Any person can develop neuropsychiatric effects from Covid-19, but people with a severe infection that requires ICU admission might have a greater risk of developing neurological problems such as delirium.

The participants in the study are set to complete five missions a day, five times a week. This includes about 25 minutes of indulging in the game each day. The study is set to go on for six weeks along with four weeks of post-treatment follow-up. The trial is set to include about 100 patients who are above the age of 18, who have also shown cognitive impairment in at least one measure of attention and executive function during screenings.

Using video games for therapy isn't a novel concept it's also been used to treat ADHD. The new research, however, is the first to use video game therapy for Covid-induced brain fog. Video games are effective for treating attention and processing speed, which is why his team thought that it would also be helpful for a population experiencing similar symptoms after having COVID-19.
A study that collected inputs from 2,36,000 Covid patients, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, showed that one in three patients experienced mental health or neurological disorder. These included dementia, stroke, and brain haemorrhage within six months of infection.

When it comes to a link between coronavirus infection and cognitive impairment in patients, there has been no clear evidence of a correlation between the two yet. However, several studies have reported that deficits in attention and learning skills among recovered individuals continue to impact their quality of life even after overcoming Covid-related symptoms.

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