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Researchers identify mechanism behind brain fog in long COVID

A team of researchers from Ireland has unveiled potential explanations for the cognitive difficulties experienced by patients with long COVID, commonly referred to as “brain fog.” This condition, prevalent in about half of long COVID cases, has long puzzled scientists seeking to understand its underlying mechanisms.

The team focused their investigation on disruptions in the blood-brain barrier, a critical boundary that regulates the flow of substances between the bloodstream and the brain. They also explored the role of an overactive immune response in contributing to brain fog. To delve deeper into these potential mechanisms, the researchers conducted a series of analyses involving blood samples and brain scans.

Their findings revealed elevated levels of a brain cell protein known as S100β in the blood of long COVID patients experiencing brain fog. This suggests a possible breach in the blood-brain barrier, allowing substances from the brain to enter the bloodstream. Brain scans further supported this hypothesis, showing increased permeability in the brains of these individuals compared to those who had recovered from COVID.

Furthermore, the researchers observed higher levels of clotting markers in the blood of long COVID patients with brain fog, indicating potential disruptions in blood flow within the brain.

Matthew Campbell, PhD, a genetics professor at Trinity College Dublin and one of the study’s coauthors, emphasized the significance of these findings. He highlighted the importance of gaining a deeper understanding of the root causes of brain fog in long COVID, as it could lead to the development of targeted therapies to alleviate symptoms in affected individuals. Campbell stressed the need for further research to translate these findings into effective treatments for patients experiencing cognitive difficulties associated with long COVID.

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