With more than a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have steadily been gathering new and vital insights on the effects of COVID on our bodies and brain. Recent findings are raising concerns regarding the long-term impacts SARS-CoV-2 may have on human biological processes. A recent large-scale preliminary study suggests that even Mild COVID-19 infection may affect the brain.

What is the Human Brain's Reaction to COVID-19?

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In the previous months, a large-scale preliminary study published in the journal MedRxiv, titled "Brain imaging before and after COVID-19 in UK Biobank," analyzed brain imaging pre and posted COVID-19 in the UK Biobank. Investigating the changes in the human brain of people that had experienced COVID drew attention in the neuroscience community.

Researchers relied on an existing database known as the UK Biobank that contains brain imaging information on over 45,000 people in the UK as far back as 2014. This means that the people's baseline data and brain imaging before the pandemic occurred were readily available for the team.

Researchers analyzed the data and brought ack people that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 for updated brain scans. When comparing the data from those that have experienced covid and participants who had not, matching the groups based on sex, age, study location, baseline test date, and risk factors such as health and socioeconomic status. The team found differences in the brain's gray matter, constructed from cell bodies and neurons that process brain information, between those diagnosed with covid and those not.

The thickness of the gray matter tissue in the participant's brain regions, the frontal and temporal lobes, was reduced in the group of participants that have suffered COVID-19. Generally, it is common to see changes in gray matter thickness and volume as a person ages; however, the changes seen in the study were larger than normal in the group that has been infected with COVID-19.

When researchers segregated the participants diagnosed with severe COVID-19 that required hospitalization, the result of those with milder covid results showed a significant decrease in brain volume even for those diagnosed with mild covid that didn't require hospitalization Science Alert reports.

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Changes in Participant's Brain Volume Indicates a Link Between Loss of Taste and Smell

Earlier in the pandemic, the most common reports of infection came from people who experienced a loss of taste and smell, according to a study published in Nature, titled "Real-time tracking of self-reported symptoms to predict potential COVID-19."

Likewise, the brain regions that researchers found when analyzing brain imaging data from the UK Biobank impacted by COVID-19 are linked to the olfactory bulb--the structure near the front of the human brain that passes signals regarding smells from the nose to other regions of the brain and has connections to the brain's temporal lobe.

Although it is still early to draw conclusions and more in-depth studies are needed to determine the long-term impacts of covid changes between the brain and memory, researchers implicated the importance of memory in further researchers and Alzheimer's disease.

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Check out more news and information on COVID-19 on Science Times.