COVID-19 and Brain Abnormalities

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Day 222: Stay Safe Minnesota

A recent study published in medical journal Seizure showed ‘strange neurological effects experienced by many patients count as perhaps the most mysterious’ among the many symptoms.

In a recent Science Alert article, Clare Watson writes that brain Scans COVID-19 patients revealed a whole spectrum of symptoms abnormalities that can’t be fully explained. According to the study, ‘the strange neurological effects experienced by many patients count as perhaps the most mysterious’ among the many symptoms.

Other COVID-19 related symptoms include loss of smell and taste, seizures, swelling of the brain (called encephalitis), confusion, delirium, dizziness, and have difficulty concentrating have also been described previously.

A recent study published in the journal Seizure, referred in the Science Alert article by the Clare Watson, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston explored how COVID-19 disturbs patterns of normal brain function, that are measurable by an EEG (electroencephalogram), by reviewing data on nearly 620 COVID-positive patients from 84 studies and found: (i) common findings are diffuse slowing, periodic patterns and seizures/status, (ii) frontal EEG findings support the putative viral entry via olfactory mucosa, and (iii) EEG changes could be from systemic causes or due to direct brain involvement.

These findings tell us that we need to try EEG on a wider range of patients, as well as other types of brain imaging, such as MRI or CT scans, that will give us a closer look at the frontal lobe.

Zulfi Haneef, Neurologist and Co-author (source: Science Alert)

“As the pandemic rolls on, we’ve come to understand just how stubborn COVID-19 can be, with patients dubbed ‘long haulers‘ describing how they can’t shake symptoms, and still feel fatigued months after they were diagnosed,” writes Watson.

“A lot of people think they will get the illness, get well, and everything will go back to normal. But these findings tell us that there might be long-term issues, which is something we have suspected and now we are finding more evidence to back that up,” Zulfi Haneef, co-author of the study said in a statement.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey conducted in last June revealed that about 30% of peoples were feeling depressed or anxious due to the pandemic. Health experts are concerns that a type of depression caused by seasonal changes, known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), may be exacerbated in some people due to the isolation and anxiety caused by the pandemic.

Dr Craig Sawchuk, a researcher of SAD at the Mayo Clinic, told the MPR News that since our routines have disrupted during the pandemic, those disruptions could make this winter more difficult for people with SAD.

When people start to talk about their mood they may not always report their mood is sad, like how we stereotypically think about depression — but more apathetic, more flat. [..] We look at unhealthy habits that haven’t necessarily developed because suddenly it’s like, ‘I want to start drinking more and sleeping more.’ It’s just the way the environment and social rhythms have changed.

Craig Sawchuk, SAD Researcher at Mayo Clinic (source: MPR News)

Dr Sawchuk, recommends light therapy as an inexpensive and effective form of treatment. Simple activity just going for a daily walk, opening blinds or turning on lights can be a mood booster for some people, said Sawchuk.

Coronavirus Pandemic Watch

According to the MDH latest tally (as of Nov 3, 11 a.m.) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 157,096 (out of 2,916,431 tested) with 2,499 deaths. According to Johns Hopkins database (as of Nov 3, 3:25 p.m.) there are 9,358,469 confirmed covid19 infection with 232,374 deaths. Globally the covid19 virus has infected 47,250,964 with 1,210,548 deaths.