Prof. Adam Hampshire Ph.D. Faculty of Medicine, Department of Brain Sciences Professor in Restorative Neurosciences Imperial College London

NEJM: Cognitive Deficits Smaller With Later COVID Variants Interview with:

Prof. Adam Hampshire Ph.D.Faculty of Medicine, Department of Brain Sciences Professor in Restorative Neurosciences Imperial College London

Prof. Hampshire

Prof. Adam Hampshire Ph.D.
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Brain Sciences
Professor in Restorative Neurosciences
Imperial College London What is the background for this study?

Response: Cognitive symptoms after coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), are well-recognized. Whether objectively measurable cognitive deficits exist and how long they persist are unclear. What are the main findings?

Response:  We invited 800,000 adults in a study in England to complete an online assessment of cognitive function. We estimated a global cognitive score across eight tasks. 141,583 participants  started the online cognitive assessment of whom 112,964 completed it.

Our main findings were as follows.

A1. On average, people who had recovered from COVID-19 showed small cognitive deficits compared with a “no-COVID” group up to  a year or more after recovering from the acute illness.

A2. People who had ongoing persistent symptoms, i.e., indicative of Long COVID, had larger cognitive deficits than people whose symptoms had resolved.

A3. People whose persistent symptoms had resolved by the time they were cognitively assessed performed at a similar level to those who had shorter duration symptoms.

A4. Memory, reasoning and executive function (that is ability to plan ahead and make decisions) showed the largest deficits among the cognitive tasks – that is, people who had had COVID-19 were both slower and less accurate when performing tasks that measure those abilities.

A5. The group with the largest cognitive deficits were patients who had been in intensive care for COVID-19.

A6. People who were infected later in the pandemic, e.g., in the Omicron period, showed smaller cognitive deficits.

A7. People who had had COVID-19 after receiving two or more vaccinations showed better cognitive  performance relative to those who had not been vaccinated.

A8. People who had had COVID-19 and reported ongoing ‘Brain Fog’ or ‘Poor Memory’ symptoms  had lower cognitive performance scores relative to those who did not report these symptoms. What should readers take away from your report?

Response:  First, while we did find slightly lower cognitive performance among people who had had COVID-19 and had recovered, any cognitive effects of COVID-19 in the more recent variant periods were less than in the early stages of the pandemic.

Second, while people who had ongoing longer duration illness (e.g., Long COVID) showed moderate cognitive deficits, those whose symptoms eventually resolved had cognitive performance similar to those who had short duration symptoms, (i.e., only small cognitive deficits evident). The long term clinical implications are at this time unknown. What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?

Response: A. The implications of longer-term persistence of cognitive deficits and their clinical relevance remain unclear and warrant ongoing surveillance.

No disclosures.


Cognition and Memory after Covid-19 in a Large Community Sample
Adam Hampshire, Ph.D., Adriana Azor, Ph.D., Christina Atchison, Ph.D., William Trender, M.Res., Peter J. Hellyer, Ph.D., Valentina Giunchiglia, M.Sc., Masud Husain, Ph.D., Graham S. Cooke, Ph.D., Emily Cooper, M.A., Adam Lound, M.Sc., Christl A. Donnelly, Ph.D., Marc Chadeau-Hyam, Ph.D., Helen Ward, Ph.D., and Paul Elliott, Ph.D.

N Engl J Med 2024; 390:806-818
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2311330
February 29, 2024

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Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Marie Benz MD FAAD