The scientific community continues to discover how the COVID-19 virus affects various body systems. New data out of the UK suggests that the COVID-19 virus could cause brain structural damage.

Much still needs to be learned about the COVID-19 virus and how it affects different organs in the body. While some patients report neuropsychiatric symptoms after infection, there hasn’t been a clear rationale as to why. A UK study recently published in Nature magazine may provide some answers as to how the COVID-19 virus actually changes structures in the brain.

The study’s authors reviewed hundreds of brain scans in people over age 50. About half had evidence of a COVID infection in between their first and second brain scan, and their scans were compared to a control group with no reported COVID infection. After comparing the results of these two groups, the researchers found several brain changes in the people who had past infection with COVID-19:

    • Tissue damage, mainly localized to the centers for smell in the brain.
    • Decrease in grey matter thickness, primarily in areas implicated in emotional processing and memory, and the recognition of taste and smell.
    • Cognitive decline that persisted after recovery from the infection.


While there are limitations of the study, including that the COVID cases weren’t stratified for severity, the research represents one of the first analyses of longitudinal data we have on how the virus may be changing brain structure.

It’s important to keep an eye on how you are feeling after you have recovered from COVID-19. Some patients report fatigue and difficulty with concentration for a few weeks after. But if you begin to develop problems with memory or start to notice a sustained decline in your mood, you may benefit from getting checked out by a mental health professional. CalPsychiatry’s physicians can help screen you for a mental health disorder and even help you with some initial cognitive screening. Call or book your free consultation today.


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