Post-COVID Cognitive, EEG Changes Persist Up to 10 Months

Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LSW

March 15, 2022

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Patients who recover from COVID-19 show interrelated cognitive, EEG, and MRI abnormalities 2 months after hospital discharge — with some “disturbances” persisting as long as 10 months later, new research suggests.

In a cohort of patients admitted to the emergency department (ED) with a diagnosis of COVID-19, who also underwent follow-up neuropsychological assessment and an EEG, more than half showed cognitive disturbances mainly affecting memory and attention 2 months after discharge.

At 10-month follow-up, there was a significant amelioration of cognitive impairment. However, some cognitive deficits and disturbances in mood were still evident in a little over a third of patients. EEG findings showed slowing of cortical activity, which was only partially ameliorated at month 10.

“Cognitive and psychopathological disturbances are associated with COVID-19 infection within 2 months from hospital discharge, partially persist in the post-COVID phase, and are associated with electroencephalographic alterations,” senior author Massimo Filippi, MD, full professor of neurology, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy, told Medscape Medical News.

“Whether these alterations are directly linked with the infection itself or with its related consequences is still to be determined, as well as whether they are completely reversible or part of a neurodegenerative process,” added Filippi, who is also chair of the Neurology Unit, Neurorehabilitation Unit, and director of the Neurophysiology Service and Neuroimaging Research Unit.

The findings were published online March 6 in the Journal of Neurology.

Useful Tool

COVID-19 survivors report neurologic sequalae, including cognitive impairments, which have been “amply described” in research conducted between 1 and 6 months after recovery, the investigators write.

However, few studies to date have “explored cognitive involvement through structured neuropsychological assessments, with most observing a short follow-up and involving only few patients,” they add.

After having COVID, individuals also experience a “wide range of persistent psychiatric disturbances,” including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety.

Several neuroimaging studies have shown neuropathologic changes in COVID patients. A
previous EEG study conducted by Filippi’s group showed that EEG alterations “might represent a useful tool to evaluate early cerebral involvement in COVID-19,” the investigators note. They found in their cohort an “anterior prevalence of slow waves, correlating with metabolic and hypoxic alterations.”

No previous studies have used EEG analysis after infection resolution. “Considering the lack of longitudinal studies with long follow-up and with structured neuropsychological and EEG assessments, we aimed at exploring longitudinal cognitive and concomitant EEG features” in COVID survivors up to 10 months after hospital discharge, the researchers write.

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Medscape Medical News © 2022

Cite this: Batya Swift Yasgur. Post-COVID Cognitive, EEG Changes Persist Up to 10
Months – Medscape – Mar 15, 2022.

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