COVID-19 tied to temporary memory, attention deficits, study suggests

A new study from researchers at University of Oxford in the U.K. suggests issues with attention span and memory may linger for months after a mild COVID-19 infection.

The study, published Jan. 19 in Brain Communications, included 136 participants — 53 of whom had COVID-19 and 83 of whom did not. The group who had COVID-19 was not significantly different from the control group on factors such as fatigue, forgetfulness, sleep patterns or anxiety, researchers noted. 

Participants, who were told they were playing a "brain game" and unaware about the aim of the study at the time, completed a number of exercises to test their memory and cognitive abilities. 

Overall, participants in the COVID-19 cohort performed well in most abilities compared to the control group, though they displayed significantly worse episodic memory for up to six months after their acute infection cleared and a greater decline in their attention span for up to 9 months. 

"We still do not understand the mechanisms that cause these cognitive deficits, but it is very encouraging to see that … attention and memory return largely to normal in most people we tested by six to nine months after infection, who demonstrated good recovery over time," said Masud Husain, PhD, study author and professor of neurology and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford. 


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