MRIs of Covid patients show clusters of plaques in areas responsible for tiredness, anxiety

Author: Yuvi November 22, 2022


People with long Covid suffer physical alterations to their brain months after clearing the initial infection, a study has shown.

MRIs of patients still suffering with symptoms six months later show clusters in parts of the brain linked to fatigue, headaches and cognition.

The Indian researchers behind the study say it is the first to show that Covid causes physical changes to the brain.

Other studies have found that the virus can also cause changes in other organs such as the heart and lungs.

Long Covid is not a specific condition with a set diagnosis, but instead an amalgamation of different symptoms with tenuous links to one-another that have been placed in the same category.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in five adults who are infected with Covid will suffer prolonged Covid to varying degrees.

There is no proven treatment or cure, but experts are exploring whether an alcoholism drug has benefit after showing promise in small studies.

Pictured: A special MRI scan found deposits of calcium, iron and deoxygenated blood in the brain stem and frontal lobe of patients with long Covid six months after they cleared the initial infection. Deposits of minerals will be detected in the frontal lobe of the brain (red).

Researchers say these parts of the organ are responsible for symptoms like fatigue, sleep disruptions and brain fog, and these deposits could be at fault for the prolonged Covid symptoms.  The scientists also found deposits in the brain stem (red).

Researchers say these parts of the organ are responsible for symptoms like fatigue, sleep disruptions and brain fog, and these deposits could be at fault for the prolonged Covid symptoms. The scientists also found deposits in the brain stem (red).

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, in Dehli, gathered data from 46 long Covid patents and 30 people that had never been infected with the virus.

Each received an MRI scan used to detect many neurological conditions such as microbleeds, abnormal development of blood vessels, brain tumors and signs of stroke.

Results showed long Covid patients had clusters of blood, iron and calcium in areas in the frontal lobe and the brain stem.

What is long Covid?

Long Covid is an informal term, used to describe ongoing symptoms following a Covid infection that go on longer than four weeks, according to the ONS.

A dizzying array of symptoms have been attributed to long Covid, including:

extreme tiredness (fatigue) shortness of breath chest pain or tightness problems with memory and concentration (‘brain fog’) difficulty sleeping (insomnia) heart palpitations dizziness pins and needles joint pain depression and anxiety tinnitus, earaches feeling sick, diarrhea, stomach aches, loss of appetite a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste rashes

There is no cure for the condition although the NHS does recommend a number of treatments designed to help ease the symptoms.

Sapna Mishra, a PhD candidate at the Indian Institute of Technology, said that her team found changes to brain regions linked to symptoms that people were experiencing months after their Covid infection.

Sapna Mishra, a PhD candidate at the Indian Institute of Technology, said that her team found changes to brain regions linked to symptoms that people were experiencing months after their Covid infection.

Sapna Mishra, a PhD candidate at the institute and a lead researchers of the study said ‘these brain regions are linked with fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, headaches and cognitive problems.’

The cluster obtained in the frontal lobe primarily showed changes in white matter.

White matter is found in the deepest tissues of the brain and is made up of millions of nerve fibers that connects parts of the brain and links the brain to the spinal cord.

Through changes in white matter, the brain finds it harder to transfer information, leading to difficulties with memory, mobility and balance.

These clusters in the frontal lobe were made up of three elements.

They were made up of portions of the left orbital-inferior frontal gyrus, which is a key region for language comprehension and production, and the right orbital-inferior frontal gyrus.

The latter is associated with functions like attention, motor inhibition, imagery, social cognitive processes, and processing speech and language,

White matter was the final component of these clusters.

As a result of these clusters, those who have recovered from Covid-19 can suffer from difficulty thinking or concentrating, headaches and tiredness.

They also found significant differences in the right ventral diencephalon region of the brain.

This region is linked to many key bodily functions such as releasing hormones, sending sensory and motor signals to the outer surface of the brain.

These functions are responsible for processing thought, emotion, language and memory, and the body’s daily sleep and wake cycles.

Researchers say that this is the first study that focuses on how the virus affects the actual composition of the brain, and how it in turn causes prolonged Covid symptoms.

‘Our study highlights this new aspect of the neurological effects of Covid-19 and reports significant abnormalities in Covid survivors,’ Ms Mishra said.

She added: ‘This study points to serious long-term complications that may be caused by the coronavirus, even months after recovery from the infection.

‘The present findings are from the small temporal window. However, the longitudinal time points across a couple of years will elucidate if there exists any permanent change.

The researchers are now conducting a study on the same patient cohort to determine whether these brain abnormalities persist over a longer time frame.

Long Covid has puzzled scientists and physicians since it first popped on their radar in 2020.

Its causes haven’t been figured out, but experts believe it could be tied to the body’s immune response to the virus.

There have also been previously known cases of people suffering long-term symptoms after suffering more common viruses like the flu.

The CDC estimates that around 7.5 percent of American adults are suffering from chronic Covid symptoms.

Sufferers are generally under the age of 50, and are more likely to be women. Reports of long Covid are most common in southern states like Kentucky and Alabama.

22 November, 2022, 12:44 am

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Tuesday, 22nd November 2022

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