Study Links Structural Brain Alterations to Post-COVID Fatigue
A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Waterloo has found a correlation between structural brain alterations and post-COVID fatigue. The study combined the results of two parallel studies, a laboratory study involving cognitive testing and imaging of oxygen levels in the brain, and a national population survey of Canadians in 2021 and 2022.
The laboratory study involved 120 fully vaccinated adults between the ages of 18 and 84 and examined the association between symptomatic COVID-19 infection history and performance on three computer tasks. Tests revealed changes in multiple parts of the brain including the thalamus, putamen and pallidum, such as shape deformations and decreased volumes of the left thalamus, putamen, and pallidum. Those who had been infected did not have the expected increase in oxygen level in an area of the brain that is normally engaged during one of these tasks, the investigators found.
In a separate study, a survey was conducted of 2,000 Canadians between the ages of 18 and 56. COVID-19 patients have reported a lack of focus, issues with restraining themselves, and heightened levels of anxiety and depression. Structural equation modelling with latent variables was performed on the population-level data, evaluating the fit of the proposed mediational model of symptomatic COVID-19 to psychiatric symptoms through cognitive dysfunction.
The findings of the study suggest that post-COVID fatigue needs to be managed in a wider clinical array that also considers sleep quality, mood alterations, and cognitive impairment. Furthermore, the study also highlighted the need to understand the full range of harms of COVID-19 illness, including how factors such as vaccination and physical conditions like diabetes, obesity and hypertension might impact these mechanisms and outcomes.
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