UK Study Shows Link Between COVID and Drop in Reasoning Abilities, Problem Solving

A study from the U.K. has found links between those who contracted COVID-19 and a decline in their reasoning and problem-solving abilities.

The study, published last week in The Lancet, examined people who had taken the Great British Intelligence Test (GBIT). The test measures different types of human mental abilities. Among 81,337 people who took the test between January and December 2020, 12,689 said they had contracted COVID-19.

Using data from the 81,337 test-takers, researchers first determined average test scores for people of different sexes, ethnicities, first languages, countries of residence, occupational statuses and earnings. They then compared those averages to the actual scores of people who had and hadn't contracted COVID-19. Of the test takers, 12,689 had contracted COVID-19.

The comparison found that those who had contracted COVID-19 had performed worse on different parts of the GBIT compared to those who hadn't contracted the virus. People who contracted COVID-19 performed worse on test tasks involving reasoning, problem-solving, spatial planning and target detection, CTV News reported.

covid-19 study mental cognitive declines brain problems
A new study from the UK has found links between COVID-19 and declines in people's reasoning abilities and problem solving. In this computer graphic, red viruses enter a person's nose and embed within their blue and purple brain matter. Design Cells/Getty

People who contracted COVID-19 also performed worse if they experienced more severe viral symptoms. For example, those who had been placed on a ventilator experienced the biggest cognitive deficits, comparable to a seven-point drop in one's IQ (intelligence quotient), the study said.

"These results accord with reports of long-COVID, where 'brain fog', trouble concentrating and difficulty finding the correct words are common," researchers wrote. "Recovery from COVID-19 infection may be associated with particularly pronounced problems in aspects of higher cognitive or 'executive' function."

Researchers also said that such cognitive deficits can continue long after a person stops experiencing other COVID-19 symptoms. The deficits could last for weeks or months after a person initially contracts the virus.

However, researchers added that further research involving brain imaging data is needed. Only then can researchers properly determine whether COVID-19 causes neurobiological or psychological changes that affect intelligence.

The study's research team involved academics from Imperial College London, King's College and the Universities of Cambridge, Southampton and Chicago.

COVID-19 has been found to have potential long-term symptoms. Some of those symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, headache, a loss of smell or taste, fever and dizziness when you stand, the Mayo Clinic said.

Imaging tests have also found that COVID-19 can damage survivors' heart, lungs and brains. Damage to the heart muscle can cause chest pains, increased heart rate and other cardiac issues later in life. The virus' scarring of tiny air sacs in the lungs can cause breathing difficulty or other respiratory issues.

COVID-19 can also possibly cause strokes, seizures and the increased likelihood of developing Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition that causes temporary paralysis, the clinic reported.

Someone who experienced serious symptoms can develop problems sleeping, depression or anxiety, especially if they experienced great stress during their illness, the clinic said.

Newsweek contacted the Mayo Clinic for comment.