Post-COVID Center: Neurocognitive impairments confirmed
Latest study by Post-Covid Center in Erlangen proves impairments
Almost 90 percent of people who have contracted COVID-19 and suffer from persistent symptoms after the initial infection present with cognitive impairments such as memory problems or difficulties concentrating. This is the conclusion reached by a study conducted by the Post-COVID Center (speaker: Prof. Dr. (TR) Yesim Erim) from Universitätsklinikum Erlangen.
“We included 110 patients from our Post-COVID Center in the study,” explains principal investigator PD Dr. Eva Morawa, head psychologist at the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. “The patients underwent an extensive neuropsychological assessment, during which we investigated twelve different cognitive functions on the basis of five tests often used internationally. Approximately 90.1 percent of our participants displayed deficits in at least one of the tests, while a total of 30.8 percent obtained below average results in at least three of the tests.” The results of the study have now been published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.
Memory problems or difficulty concentrating
Lasting cognitive complaints such as problems with memory or concentration are among the most common post-COVID symptoms. “We deliberately chose to focus on these symptoms for the very fact that they are hard to grasp and tend to be perceived differently by different people,” explains PD Morawa. “The participants were the first 110 patients from our Post-COVID Center, who attended our Center for the first time between December 2022 and May 2023. We tested the type and frequency of their cognitive impairments, as well as risk factors applicable in each case.”
Focus on twelve cognitive functions
The following twelve cognitive functions were analyzed using recognized testing procedures: learning and recognition performance and difficulties with recall (Verbal Learning Memory Test, VLMT), numerical short-term memory and working memory (digit span backwards from the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised, WMS-R), visual attention and executive functioning (Trail Making Test, TMT, parts A and B), attention and working speed (d2-R-Test), and lexical and semantic word production and flexibility (Regensburg Word Fluency Test, RWT).
Lost for words
The most common cognitive deficits were observed in verbal fluency, working speed, delayed recall and attention. Participants with a high level of education were less at risk of cognitive impairments. For elderly participants in the study their age represented a risk factor for working speed and delayed recall, but this was at the same time a protective factor for verbal fluency. Clinically relevant symptoms of depression were associated with an increased risk for below average performance relating to cognitive functions.
Publication: Morawa E, Krehbiel J, Borho A, Herold R, Lieb M, Schug C, Erim Y (2023). Cognitive impairments and mental health of patients with post-COVID-19: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 173: 111441. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2023.111441. The article is available from the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy (email@example.com) at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen.