Questions about Long-COVID-19 Brain Fog
Is it real?
Depression and anxiety are tightly intertwined with cognition. But the distinctive pattern of the deficits supports the conclusion that, in most patients, depression and anxiety are the result and not the cause of the cognitive impairment.
What are the symptoms?
A new study looked at 740 patients with an average age of 49 years whose diagnoses were confirmed with nasal swabs or antibody levels. Their most prominent deficits were in processing speed, executive functioning, word fluency, and recall. Executive dysfunction (improper organization) was more common than true memory loss. This contrasts with Alzheimer’s disease, in which memories are not encoded (stored) and thus cannot be retrieved even with cues (hints).
Is it treatable?
Because there are no specific medical treatments for these cognitive deficits, it is important to recognize and treat underlying depression and anxiety. Cognitive rehabilitation programs can help patients manage their deficits by making lists and staying organized with calendars. Mindfulness training can also help. Recognizing that “brain fog” is a major issue that affects quality of life leads to “validation,” an important step in treatment.
See the study by Becker et al in JAMA Network Open 2021.
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