Most long-COVID sufferers battle neurological symptoms, including some cognitive issues never seen before

People continue to experience neurological problems six months after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, finds a recent study from the University of California San Diego. In fact, scientists say most coronavirus long-haulers battle brain-related issues.

The findings are part of a long-term study tracking the progression of neurological symptoms in people with long COVID. Not only do neurological symptoms persist, the researchers also found never-before-seen motor coordination and cognitive issues in long-haulers.

“It’s encouraging that most people were showing some improvement at six months, but that wasn’t the case for everyone,” says Dr. Jennifer S. Graves, associate professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and neurologist at UC San Diego Health in a media release. “Some of these participants are high-level professionals who we’d expect to score above average on cognitive assessments, but months after having COVID-19, they’re still scoring abnormally.” 

Between October 2020 to October 2021, the research team tracked the health of 56 people who developed neurological issues after a mild to moderate COVID-19 infection. None of the people had a history of neurological conditions before becoming sick from the virus. People first received a neurological exam, cognitive test, survey questions on symptoms, and the option for a brain scan.

In the first visit, 89% of people reported fatigue, and 80% said they felt constant headaches. Other neurological symptoms ranged from memory troubles, insomnia, and loss of concentration. About 80% of people said the neurological symptoms affected their quality of life.

After a 6-month follow-up, only one-third of people fully recovered from their neurological symptoms. The other two-thirds continued to show neurological symptoms, though the symptoms decreased in severity. For those that continued to have symptoms, the most common was memory impairment and lack of focus.

One surprising finding for the team was that 7% of people had a set of symptoms that to their knowledge have never observed in people with long COVID. The symptoms included cognitive deficits, tremors, and trouble keeping their balance. The authors labeled the symptoms as Tremor, Ataxia, and Cognitive deficit (PASC-TAC).

“These are folks who had no neurological problems before COVID-19, and now they have an incoordination of their body and possible incoordination of their thoughts,” comments Dr. Graves. “We didn’t expect to find this, so we want to get the word out in case other physicians see this too.” 

There is still much work to be done to study how the virus penetrates the brain. Dr. Graves hypothesizes that inflammatory autoimmune responses in the brain caused by the infection is likely the reason behind these delayed neurological symptoms.

The study is projected to last for 10 years, with researchers following up with people every year. Other parts of the research will focus on how different COVID-19 variants and vaccines impact persistent neurological symptoms.

“To have people’s cognition and quality of life still impacted so long after infection is something we as a society need to be taking a serious look at,” says Dr. Graves. “We still need to know how common this is, what biological processes are causing this, and what ongoing health care these people will need. This work is an important first step to getting there.”

The study is published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

Comments

    1. Long Covid is still doing it’s job on my husband. Headaches Brain fog Chronic fatige and he had all his vaccines. He no longer works as a charge nurse anymore and he is trying to get his disability. And to top that at our granddaughters ball game one lady that sat behind him said oh yeah they tested us at work and I am positive. So now we all have Covid again.

  1. First of all, if the very, very small study (56) was comprised of people who were significantly sick with Covid then many had other issues prior to the infection. Secondly, you state that these people didn’t have problems before Covid; however, you don’t really know that. These post Covid problems could just be undiagnosed old ones made worse by viral trauma. To call this a study is an insult to proper medical research!

    1. I am a long hauler and have most of those symptoms. I had none of them prior to Covid. I was not overweight, and had had a complete neurological check done 18 months before. Breathing issues and fatigue are the biggest problems, but there are noticeable cognitive issues. Everyone I know that had a serious case of Covid, one requiring hospitalization or nearly requiring suffers from these issues.

      1. Curious if you had all your vaccinations. No judgement if you did not (or did- either way) just curious.

  2. after 18 months still facing cognitive disruption. balance. shortness of breath, weakness in legs, taste issues

    1. I’m shocked it took so long to see what the truth really is…you’re right most of this is people who are vaxxed and boosted up the you know what. I am seeing so much of this and it is so obvious but I’m sure they couldn’t be convinced of that. It’s for the common good, don’t you know. Truly sad.

  3. Let’s see how many of them had the vaccine..my bet it’s vaccine related and not Covid related at all.

  4. Nothing…absolutely nothing…said about vaccine status. “Glaring oversight” is an understatement.

    Gotta wonder why the researchers “forgot.”

  5. Since those that had The Wu and those that got the mRNA GMO treatment are largely overlapping data universes (laugh) how do you know it’s The Wu causing it and not the mRNA GMO, or both together.

    1. Myself, I’d much rather a slight cognitive defect than having to navigate life with a moral deficit so severe that I’d lack the ability to correctly identify even something as basic as genitalia.

  6. I have experienced the cognitive symptoms. It’s been unpleasant. Insomnia, memory, muscle weakness, tremors, taste, smell. Had Covid in December. No vax. I won’t take it.

  7. The occurrence of Long Covid predates the availability of the MRNA vaccines by many months. A check with the web site for Survivors Corps will show that many long covid sufferers reported an improvement or complete abatement of symptoms immediately after receiving the vaccine. It appears that many making comments here get their medical information from Infowars and other skeptics. Just throw a conspiracy theory out there and there are many who rush to embrace it, even with no definitive evidence to prove it. Some Podiatrist with no background in infectious diseases comes up with a theory and we don’t need to know anything else. After all, why impair the beauty of an idea with facts.

    1. Actually, if you do some simple digging and watching you’ll discover that some of pharmacology’s “wonder drugs” (Zantac is a fascinating one – best-selling drug in the world 4 years after its release in 1983) have been on the market for years / decades before being pulled and lawsuits abounding (Zantac was pulled by the FDA in 2019 as it is linked to cancer).

      Also, why the increase in deaths and cardiac events in otherwise healthy people? This website details 1,111 athlete deaths and health events (by athlete name, age, and news story). Scroll to the bottom of the website story to see the 1,111 listed in order.
      https://goodsciencing.com/covid/athletes-suffer-cardiac-arrest-die-after-covid-shot/

      1. The web site is interesting. It implies with little evidence that covid vaccines are totally responsible for the adverse health events of 1044 athletes of various ages, and the deaths of 683. Yes, it is possible for some of those people to have suffered ill effects and died from the vaccines. First, for clarity, those numbers are for athletes all over the planet. The US numbers are 221 cases with 142 deaths. And it tells us that if we think the numbers are normal, to repeat that to ourselves as we scroll and look at the names. I not only scrolled to the bottom, I read and counted also. I will stick to the US numbers. The causes ranged from cardiomyopathy, to cancer, stroke, etc., all of which can be brought on by covid 19, or other causes, even in healthy folks. What is normal is about 90 cases of cardiomyopathy per million, or 29700, without covid or the vaccines, with an estimated death rate of about 25%, or 7425. With covid 19 the number is about 1500 cases per million cases of covid, or 131,100. With the MRNA vaccines, the incidence is about 5 per million or 1111.5. And these are just the cardiac numbers. If the vaccines can cause 221 athletes to get sick and 142 to die, then after 222.3 mil. folks vaccinated, and 596.2 mil. doses administered, there should be a whole lot more, less healthy, folks getting sick and dying than there are. The vaccines have saved a lot more lives than they have harmed.

  8. I have had covid 3 times. At the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020 & last October (probably omicron) I had very mild symptoms. Then, 2 months ago I got it again and had more moderate symptoms for a few days including fever, shivers and brutal headaches. I am double vaccinated since August 2021. No cognitive issues until this last infection. Now I have very obvious memory and concentration issues. I feel “stupid” and “foggy”. I am a professional with a doctorate.

    1. Sorry to learn of your lingering issues. There is still so much we don’t understand. So many variables to link and categorize. It’s going to take years of study to sort out and come up with definitive answers.
      I have had COVID 3 times after 2 vaccines and 2 boosters. My cases were very mild but still read positive on test results. It’s all odd, very odd. To me the the virus seems “designed” but that is just my theory after talking to many people – anecdotal – I have zero evidence.

  9. One needs to be aware that this article is written by a journalist, not the researchers actually conducting the study. She is reporting on preliminary information early on in what is projected to be a 10 year study. She has chosen what data to include in this article but we don’t know if she was provided with all information involved in the study including such things as vaccination status. I feel this is a well intentioned article attempting to provide the public with interesting preliminary findings based on very little data.

    1. You, and the rest of the “naysayers” here, are obviously NOT reading the replies from many suffering from the EXACT SAME results as described in the article – and a TRUCKLOAD of similar replies won’t make a BIT of difference to those like you will they…

  10. I wonder if any study has correlated Covid with our country having installed the stupidest son of a BlTCH in the White House to ever fall up a flight of stairs or ‘forget’ to take his foot off a bicycle pedal after stopping.

    1. Had mild covid twice. Was vaccinated. Severe long term brain fog and memory issues. A year later and not getting better.

    2. Touché! You are so right. This has been a “cluster” right from the beginning. But Biden has certainly made EVERY aspect of our daily lives more difficult. He’s has the complete opposite of the MIDAS TOUCH. I have never witnessed such “non-leadership.” We have no idea who is really running the country. What’s a soon to be 80 year old, doing on a bike anyway?? That orchestrated bike ride was a colossal fail and just served to reenforce what we all know. Biden is a man in serious decline, mentally and physically. Someone needs to figure out how he can be removed from office and take action toward that end.

  11. I agree with Prelusive. Couldn’t Covid be responsible for our having elected Stupid Joe? Something sure caused that nationwide brainfartt.

  12. I have not had the vaccine. I had covid in early October 2020. I have no taste or smell. I feel like my energy levels never came back . I would say from time to time I have trouble finding my words. It’s all very frustrating.

  13. So people who claim to have “long covid” also have high rates of neurological problems huh?

    We knew that without a study

  14. I am waiting for Fauci to tell us we need more nano-plastics in our blood to be fully “boosted”.

    A point to ponder that applies to 1918 as it does today:. It was not the virus known as the Spanish Flu that killed 60 million people circa WW1, but our mammalian cytokine immune system over-reaction that tore apart people’s lungs. If this is any consolation.

    Viruses are like robotic non-living parasites. The first rule of a successful parasite is “don’t kill your host”.

    Our next goal? Tamp down our immune system over-reactions

  15. Long Covid is caused by the spike protein. The same thing that causes vaccine side effects. The spike protein is a toxin. Also, inappropriate standard of care in hospitals caused many people to have lung damage, hypoxia, and resulting brain damage.

    1. Yes, you are correct. The spike protein travels throughout the body and the results are now obvious to those paying attention. Openvaers spells it all out; that and the data dumps that are coming the vac.makers. Things are going to get much worse I am afraid.

    2. The objective of the study was to follow only people suffering from long-covid. As such, all of the study participants were affected by long-covid at the beginning of the study. All of the subjects had had mild to moderate infections, making the issue of inappropriate hospital care less than a moot point. Since the study began in Oct., 2020, it begs the question, how were these folks infected with this alleged “toxic” spike protein from a vaccine that wasn’t available yet? I personally know persons who were infected with covid, recovered, and then developed Long-covid before being vaccinated.

  16. With all that is now known about health effects of the COVID virus, you have to wonder if the Chinese government has taken their harsh measures against it, because they know something about the virus’s effects that people outside China don’t know. It apparent originated in the Wuhan research facility, and the Chinese may have access to years of research on it.

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