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The brain after severe coronavirus infection

Artist's conception of the novel coronavirus approaching the surface of a cell (in blue, in the background)


Memory failures reported by people who suffered severe cases of COVID-19 resemble those typical of cognitive decline. This is no coincidence. Scientists at Harvard University, USA, found that severe inflammation caused by SARS-CoV-2 causes similar changes in the brain to those observed in old age. In the frontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with cognition, inflammation and stress genes were more active in infected people than uninfected, while genes linked to the formation of connections between brain cells were less active. The results were supported by a molecular analysis that compared expressed (active) genes in brain samples from 21 people who had severe SARS-CoV-2 infections before they died and 9 asymptomatic individuals, all aged between 23 and 84 years old with no apparent signs of psychiatric or neurological disorders (Nature Aging, December 5).