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Brain fog after coronavirus – what is known about the disease

The cause of brain fog is the coronavirus.

The cause of brain fog is the coronavirus.

A photo: Shutterstock

Brain fog after coronavirus… Those who have experienced this state describe it in different ways, but it’s not pleasant enough – you acutely feel stupid, and you forget everything in a row. The reason for this effect is the coronavirus. Now many who have been ill with the “corona” can experience for themselves what it is like for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms are almost the same. But why does it come from? Covid made us stupid – how?

Popular magazine The Atlantic collected the comments of doctors and patients – those who suffered this strange disease on themselves, those who treated and observed. Investigator – Edie Yong, who won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting during the pandemic. We have read and tell you.

STRANGE ILLNESS. START

On March 25, 2020, Hannah Davis was texting two friends when she realized she couldn’t understand one of their messages. She looked at the letters, said what she read aloud, and understood absolutely nothing. At that moment, her former happy life disappeared.

Hannah was an AI expert and had no trouble analyzing complex systems. Now he hits a mental wall, even when faced with simple tasks like filling out forms on websites. Her memory, once bright, colorful, with smells and images, now seems tattered and fleeting. The old daily routines—grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning—are excruciatingly difficult. Her inner world – what she calls “daydreaming, planning, imagining” – is gone. The fog has perverted every area of ​​her life. More than 900 days have passed. All other consequences of the transferred covid disappeared. And the fog in her brain never dissipated.

THE MOST DESTRUCTIVE AND THE MOST INCOMPLETE

“Brain fog is by far one of the most disabling and devastating symptoms of long covid. And the most misunderstood,” said Emma Ladds, a primary care specialist at the University of Oxford.

Between 20 and 30 percent of patients report brain fog three months after contracting covid. It can affect people who are mildly ill and have almost no symptoms. But “brain fog” is observed in 60-80 percent of those who have been seriously ill and for a long time. Moreover, it also affects young people in the prime of their mental abilities.

Those who have experienced this state find it difficult to compare it to: it is worse than the sluggish thinking that accompanies a hangover, stress, or fatigue. And this is definitely not psychosomatics: the disease actually changes the structure and chemistry of the brain.

“And it’s definitely not related to depression — it has a different chemistry,” says Joanna Hellmuth, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. – At its core, it is almost always a disorder of “executive function” – that set of mental abilities that includes focusing attention, holding information in the mind, and blocking out distractions. These skills are so fundamental that when they collapse, much of the human cognitive edifice collapses. Everything that has to do with concentration, multitasking and planning – that is, almost everything important – becomes absurdly difficult.

THERE ARE MEMORIES, BUT AS IF BEHIND GLASS

Of course, “brain fog” is not Alzheimer’s disease at all, but it seems to be.

“When I try to remember my scientific work, some facts related to research, even my relatives, everything seems far away to me. These are just events, but no longer a part of me. It feels like I am a void and I live in a void,” says Hannah Davis.

Other patients make an interesting comparison – “before, the brain was like a racing car, it started up with a half turn and smoothly fit into the sharpest turns. And now we are barely riding on a collapsed jalopy. For many, this loss becomes palpable, like real physical pain.

HE WAS LONG BEFORE COVID

The most amazing thing is that the covid pandemic “gave” “brain fog” to many people, but the “fog” itself was there before. These symptoms are well known to people living with HIV, epileptics after seizures, patients undergoing brain chemotherapy, and people with rare chronic conditions like fibromyalgia. Another “fog” occurs in myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS, a condition that Davis and many others now suffer from.

But – they did not recognize the disease, but they laughed at the sick – you are fooling, pretending to be. At best, they said: “Oh, it’s just a little depression, don’t worry.”

“We don’t yet have the right tools to measure the severity of brain fog,” he said. David Putrino Head of the Covid Rehabilitation Clinic at Mount Sinai. – Physicians often use the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which was designed to identify extreme mental health problems in older people with dementia and is not suitable for people under 55. With such tests, a young person, even with a strong “brain fog”, can cope. There are more sophisticated tests, but they still compare people to the population average rather than to their previous baseline.

BRAIN FOG AFTER CORONAVIRUS IS EASIER TO HIDE THAN TO EXPLAIN

Unfortunately, many patients who experience brain fog prefer not to talk about it. For example, Julia Moore Vogel, who helps run a major biomedical research program, may have enough managerial responsibilities for her job, but “almost everything else in my life I cut out to make room for that. That is, I even reduced any communication to a minimum – it takes too much strength from me.

But she rarely talks about it, because “in my field, the brain is the currency,” she said. “And I know that my value in the eyes of many people will decrease if they find out that I have cognitive problems.”

The difficulty is that the usual methods of recovery are not suitable for such people. For example, sports are often contraindicated. But the regimen and good sleep, as well as proper, healthy food – yes. For example, Vogel wears a special device that tracks her heart rate, sleep, activity, and stress as a measure of her energy level. If they seem low, she forces herself to rest – both cognitively and physically.

At times like this, “you have to admit that you’re in a crisis and the best thing you can do is literally do nothing,” she said. When you get stuck in the fog, sometimes the only way out is to stand still.

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