The truth about Covid-19 and what it does to the brain
We know how coronavirus affects the lungs... but what about the brain? Long-term side effects include memory loss, trouble with impulse control, and personality change ¨C and the risk is amplified for the poor, report Donn¨¦ Minn¨¦ and Mischa Minn¨¦
By now, most of us will be familiar with the litany of facts surrounding Covid-19. So perhaps it will come as a surprise to learn of the potential cognitive repercussions for those who become acutely ill to the point of requiring hospitalisation. Somehow, during matters of life and death, our higher mental faculties take a back seat. In the UK, the death toll is more than 43,000.
For South Africa, a recent forecast from a group of researchers from the universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and the Witwatersrand is just as sobering, projecting that the country can expect in the region of 40,000 Covid-19 related deaths by November 2020. But as a neuropsychologist, I¡¯m focusing on the brain of survivors and what damage to this special organ will mean for personhood ¨C for your very sense of self ¨C and for cognition ¨C how you process information about the world around you.
A significant proportion of Covid-19 patients who survive the ICU can be expected to sustain lasting damage to the brain. They may have problems with their memory and think in less efficient ways. Many will experience changes in their moods, even in their character. If they are below the retirement age, they will probably not be able to return to work at full capacity.