Cognitive impairment as a result of severe COVID-19 is similar to that sustained between 50 and 70 years of age and is equivalent to losing 10 IQ points, say a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London in the UK.
A study published in eClinicalMedicine assessed cognitive function and psychological sequela among 46 individuals who received critical care for COVID-19 at a UK hospital between 10 March 2020 and 31 July 2020, of whom 16 were mechanically ventilated.
Participants underwent detailed computerised cognitive assessment alongside scales measuring anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder under supervised conditions at a mean follow up of 6.0 (± 2.1) months following acute illness.
The researchers found that, compared to matched controls (n=460), COVID-19 survivors were less accurate and had slower response times than expected compared to their matched controls. Acute illness, but not chronic mental health, significantly predicted cognitive deviation.
COVID-19-related cognitive impairment was qualitatively distinct from the profiles of normal ageing and dementia and similar in magnitude to the effects of ageing between 50 and 70 years of age. A trend towards reduced deficits with time from illness did not reach statistical significance.