New research shows that COVID-19 can cause "significant drops in IQ scores"

Just as the CDC follows through with their idea to drop the 5-day isolation guidance for folks with active cases of COVID-19, scientists have published new research showing that COVID-19 can negatively affect the health of the brain and cause brain fog, headaches, seizures, strokes, sleep disorders, nerve paralysis, mental health issues, significant drops in IQ scores, and more.

Top COVID-19 and long COVID researcher Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, Chief of Research and Development, VA St. Louis Health Care System and Clinical Epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, recently published a terrific, accessible overview of some of the latest research, in The Conversation. He sums up some of the most important research findings thus far about COVID-19 and the brain. Here are some highlights:

Large epidemiological analyses showed that people who had COVID-19 were at an increased risk of cognitive deficits, such as memory problems.

Imaging studies done in people before and after their COVID-19 infections show shrinkage of brain volume and altered brain structure after infection

A study of people with mild to moderate COVID-19 showed significant prolonged inflammation of the brain and changes that are commensurate with seven years of brain aging

Severe COVID-19 that requires hospitalization or intensive care may result in cognitive deficits and other brain damage that are equivalent to 20 years of aging

Studies show that even when the virus is mild and exclusively confined to the lungs, it can still provoke inflammation in the brain and impair brain cells' ability to regenerate.

A large preliminary analysis pooling together data from 11 studies encompassing almost 1 million people with COVID-19 and more than 6 million uninfected individuals showed that COVID-19 increased the risk of development of new-onset dementia in people older than 60 years of age.

Dr. Al-Aly also discusses two new studies that were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found significant deficits in memory and executive task performance in people who had had COVID-19–in people infected with earlier variants such as Delta, as well as those infected with more recent Omicron variants. The same study found drops in IQ points in patients with mild cases of COVID-19 who didn't have persistent symptoms, and in those who developed persistent symptoms. The former lost an equivalent of three IQ points and the latter six. It gets worse: 

Those who had been admitted to the intensive care unit for COVID-19 had a nine-point loss in IQ. Reinfection with the virus contributed an additional two-point loss in IQ, as compared with no reinfection.

I don't know about you, but I can't really afford to lose IQ points—I need my brain for my work. With every new study that comes out about COVID-19, I learn more bad news about how COVID-19 negatively affects practically every system in the body. I'm going to keep masking, that's for sure. Stay safe out there, friends!

Previously: New study reveals that almost 1 in 4 adults in the United States who had COVID also developed long COVID symptoms