How does COVID-19 affect the brain? Here’s what we know so far

At the beginning of 2020, Carol Andersen was busy enjoying life.

The 67-year-old had a job she loved in the results department of a clinical lab and was looking forward to a holiday on a cruise.

Then in March, she got COVID-19.

Even though Ms Andersen’s infection wasn’t severe, she has been stuck with lingering neurological symptoms such as nerve pain, fatigue, “brain fog” and smell issues ever since.

The Blacktown resident has been unable to work due to her symptoms.

“I don’t feel the way I felt before COVID. It’s really quite confronting,” Ms Andersen said.

“Even doing my ‘survival’ jobs at home like showering, washing up, putting the garbage out … I feel like I’ve done a 10-page essay.”

An emerging body of research on the long-lasting neurological effects of COVID-19 suggests Ms Andersen is not alone.

A recent analysis of the health records of more than 230,000 people with COVID-19 found that around one-third experienced a neurological or psychiatric condition up to six months after infection.

Roughly 13 per cent of those patients had not been diagnosed with those types of conditions previously.

“It’s more than a psychological thing,” said Craig Anderson, a neurologist at the George Institute for Global Health.

“This is really a physical fatigue that people are trying to recover from.”

And while it’s early days, researchers are beginning to unravel how COVID-19 affects the brain and leads to brain fog and other neurological issues.

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