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This British Intelligence Test Can Tell if You’re Clever . . . And Maybe if COVID Affected Your Brain

August 24, 2021

COVID-19 isn’t like a tropical storm that appears, somewhat unpredictably, then vanishes within hours in a trail of blue skies. In some people, COVID lingers for months as cognitive and neurological problems like headaches, strokes, anxiety, brain fog and difficulty walking, talking or sleeping.

A nationwide survey known as the Great British Intelligence Test developed pre-COVID at Imperial College London, quickly adapted to collect cognitive data on both coronavirus and healthy people, found that those hospitalized with the virus who required a ventilator showed the largest cognitive underperformance. They reported difficulty with reasoning, problem-solving and spatial planning compared to the same age group and educational background who did not require hospitalization.

The findings, published last month in The Lancet, reported 13,000 of the more than 81,000 people who took the test last year between January and December said they had COVID-19 infections ranging from mild to severe. In the United States, healthcare providers were documenting similar long-term effects of COVID-19.

“More and more studies in the United States and the world are finding an association between COVID-19 and a range of neurologic problems,” said Dr. Mark Alberts, chief of neurology at Hartford Hospital, this spring. “In general, the pattern we’re seeing is that symptoms develop a number of days or weeks after a severe COVID infection and then they may stabilize for a while. Then, fortunately, in the vast majority of folks, the symptoms gradually get better over a number of weeks. This is the good news – most folks get better on their own.”

Patients admitted to the intensive care unit often have cognitive issues, whether from sedation or use of a ventilator. But most COVID patients required neither sedation nor ventilators. In the intelligence test survey, some people who did not require hospitalization experienced cognitive deficits, though not at the level of those hospitalized.

COVID-19 doesn’t infect brain cells, but it can cause brain inflammation. The virus can also affect blood flow to the brain, producing an oxygen deficit.

Patients with long-term COVID-effects have sought treatment at Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network, Rehabilitation Network, Ayer Neuroscience Institute, Heart & Vascular Institute or other specialty service lines for follow-up care.

For more information, people who have had COVID-19 can call the COVID Recovery Center at 860.827.3200.

“The COVID Recovery Center was designed to care for people who’ve had COVID, with mental health treatment capabilities that were built in right from the beginning,” says Dr. John Santopietro, physician-in-chief of the Behavioral Health Network.

Need a COVID-19 vaccine or booster?

Anyone in the eligible groups can get vaccinated at one of our vaccine clinics. To ensure safety, an appointment is required.

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