COVID-19 Linked to Alzheimer’s-Like Brain Changes, Study Suggests

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New research has found a plausible mechanism to explain COVID’s tie to damaging changes in the brain

For some, it’s just a sniffle. But for others, COVID-19 can hit hard. Either way, some people who get COVID-19 will suffer from long-term effects. This is known as “long COVID,” and its sufferers are often referred to as “long haulers.” Chances are you already know about long COVID and you may even have been affected by it or have friends or family who are. What is less well known, however, is that neurological issues are common in long COVID.

Broken Brains

Brain inflammation, stroke, chronic headache, disturbed consciousness, cognitive impairment, and “brain fog” (an all-encompassing phrase to describe a condition that usually manifests as slow thinking, memory lapses, and difficulty concentrating) can all result after infection with the virus known as SARS-CoV-2.

Even the illness’s unusual hallmarks, hyposmia, and hypogeusia—better known to us non-scientists as loss of smell and taste—are thought to be due to changes in nervous system function.

But while both clinicians and patients have noticed a myriad of brain issues post infection, scientists don’t know very much about how SARS-CoV-2 infections can lead to impaired brain function.

That may be changing.

A study published on Feb. 3 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia sheds light on a potential physiological mechanism behind the neurological problems COVID-19 survivors experience.

While the deeper insight into what is going on is good news, unfortunately, there’s bad news, too.

The new study, “Alzheimer’s-Like Signaling in Brains of COVID-19 Patients,” includes some disturbing findings.

Attacking ACE2 Receptors

The study, led by Andrew R. Marks, a cardiologist and chair of the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in Manhattan, consisted of analysis of brain tissue collected from 10 people who died from COVID-19.

Marks’s team looked posthumously at the brains of four women who ranged in age from 38 to 80, and six men, ages 57 to 84.

By Jennifer Margulis

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