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Article: Brain Fog from Long COVID: researchers discover possible cause

Brain Fog from Long COVID: researchers discover possible cause

Brain Fog from Long COVID: researchers discover possible cause

Many people with Long COVID suffer from what is known as brain fog. Why exactly is not yet clear. Researchers now appear to be one step closer to finding the answer.

It transmits messages between the body and brain, but is missing in people Long COVID almost completely: the neurotransmitter serotonin. The lack of serotonin leads to memory problems, difficulty concentrating and mood swings such as depression and anxiety - also known as "brain fog". That's the result of a new study from the University of Pennsylvania that appeared in the journal Cell.

Serotonin deficiency triggers brain fog?

As part of the study The researchers took blood and stool samples from 1,540 COVID-19 infected people. They found that the virus remains in the gastrointestinal tract for months after the acute infection has subsided.

They also found that serotonin levels were significantly lower in patients with Long COVID. That led them to conclude that this neurotransmitter is crucial to recovering from Long COVID. According to the study cause Remnants of the virus the decline in serotonin levels in the body.

A lack of serotonin can make people susceptible Depression, panic attacks and aggression make. Without serotonin, vasovagal signal transmission and thus cognition are also impaired. That's it Signal transmission via the vagus nerve meaning that regulates the function of almost all internal organs. In addition, he is for Rest, recovery and digestion responsible. Impaired signaling could also contribute to brain fog.

Long COVID varies from patient to patient

What exactly characterizes Long COVID? The symptoms of the disease are very numerous and there is no uniform clinical picture, which makes diagnosis and treatment difficult. According to the Federal Center for Health Education Long COVID's complaints include:

  • Weakness and exhaustion (fatigue)
  • Exercise intolerance (post-exertional malaise), in which symptoms worsen after mild physical or mental exertion
  • Cough
  • shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • sleep disorders
  • Muscle weakness and pain
  • Chest pain
  • Disturbances of taste and smell
  • Speech disorders
  • anxiety
  • depressions
  • Mood swings

Different explanations for brain fog

As for brain fog, it is caused by a lack of serotonin, according to the study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. However, researchers at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavior at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) disagree.

"We don't yet know what causes these troubling symptoms, but there are three possibilities why they may occur," they wrote in one Article that appeared on the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences website. According to them, persistent psychological symptoms are:

  1. the result of specific effects of COVID-19 on the brain, immune system or other organ systems;
  2. the result of traumatic aspects of the COVID-19 experience;
  3. the result of the despair that patients experience due to long-term breathing problems or fatigue with no end in sight.

As for the second possibility, a longer hospital stay in the intensive care unit can also cause cognitive problems such as poor concentration and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) have a profound impact, according to UCSF researchers. These are all symptoms associated with brain fog. 

Further research into symptoms needed

Overall, it is not yet clear what causes the differences in the symptoms of Long COVID, said Christoph Thaiss, co-author of the serotonin study and assistant professor of microbiology, in a Press release .

The new study offers opportunities for further research. The goal is to find out how many people with Long COVID are simultaneously affected by viral persistence (the virus is not completely eliminated or destroyed, but remains in the body), serotonin deficiency and vagus nerve dysfunction. 

Possible new therapeutic approaches should also be identified for the various symptoms of patients, Thaiss continued.

Long COVID more common than expected

At the beginning of February, the German Society for Pulmonology and Respiratory Medicine announced a Press release out of here. According to her, five to ten percent of all corona infected people in Germany suffer from Long COVID or post-COVID syndrome.

Like that Robert Koch Institute (RKI) writes, according to statutory health insurance data from 2022, seven to 13 percent of corona patients were affected by Long COVID. The actual numbers are probably higher, according to the RKI. Often it is only possible to treat the symptoms, as there are currently no medications specifically for Long COVID.

 This article does not replace medical advice. If you have any health questions, please contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Author: Anna Samarina

Source: Epoch Times, October 30, 2023

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