How does COVID-19 impact the brain? A local doctor explains | KOB 4

How does COVID-19 impact the brain? A local doctor explains

Joy Wang
Updated: January 30, 2021 09:31 PM
Created: January 30, 2021 05:55 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There are still a lot of unknowns about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the body — including the brain. 

"We've been seeing a lot of problems with patients after COVID, having what we call neuropsychiatric effects," said Dr. Scott Carroll with the Ayni Neuroscience Institute. 

In elderly people, it can look like early onset dementia. 

"It seems to progress their dementia, probably through micro-strokes," Dr. Carroll said. "We've also seen patients who have pretty severe depression. We're not sure if that's actually from the brain damage that COVID causes. COVID does infect the vascular system including the blood vessels of the brain, and often causes micro-clots." 

Dr. Carroll said they're just beginning to study COVID-19's impacts on the brain, and will likely be spending the next decade unpacking what they learn. 

"But then the question is, are we going to also see increased rates of schizophrenia, increased rates of bipolar disorder? You can often trigger them later in life with brain damage, and so that's going to be an interesting question," he said. 

Dr. Carroll said COVID-19 survivors who were hospitalized or had serious symptoms are more likely to have prevalent long-term impacts. 

"We are seeing it," he said. "When you start to look at the more severely-affected people who are hospitalized, that's when you really see the highest rates of these sort of residual neuropsychiatric symptoms." 

Dr. Carroll said right now they're focused on saving lives and trying to hold people together, including those who are dealing with the mental impacts of the pandemic like isolation. 

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