New study finds COVID-19 can cause changes in brain that mimic Alzheimer's disease

Stunning new research on the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain shows the memory and attention issues caused by the disease that many people described as "brain fog" were actually caused by changes in the brain that mimic Alzheimer’s disease.

All of those shots aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 may also prevent the disease from changing one’s brain. The new research unveiled at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference found "associations between COVID-19 and persistent cognitive deficits" in people who got sick from the virus.

"But there are some real connections between COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s disease," explained Sue Parriott with the Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota and North Dakota.

Parriott says researchers have discovered specific correlations between COVID-19'S effect on the brain and Alzheimer’s.

"Well, they’re seen in the kind of long-term after-effects of COVID that people are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or that the disease has advanced," she explained.

In fact, one study of 300 patients at New York University found those with COVID-19 who suffered from symptoms of mental confusion showed high blood biomarkers for the p-tau proteins. Those same proteins are associated with neuron tangles that lead to Alzheimer's.

The findings suggest that COVID-19 disease changed the brain and accelerated Alzheimer's related symptoms. However, COVID-19 also affected people already suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Parriott says the isolation of the lockdowns separated patients from their doctors, and even their families, and affected their care. In Minnesota, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease jumped 12-percent in 2020. Another symptom of the pandemic that is still not over.

"So there’s a lot of things that we do every day to keep our health and wellness good and our cognition good.  And when you take all those things away, it really impacts our overall body and our overall health."

Other new research this week also found that cognitive impairment correlates with the persistent loss of smell in those that have recovered from COVID-19. The researchers acknowledge there need to be more long-term studies to discover if there are any stronger links between the coronavirus and Alzheimer’s.