Many COVID patients have memory problems months later, new study finds

“We’re seeing long-term cognitive impairment across a range of age groups and disease severity,” said study author Jacqueline Becker, a clinical neuropsychologist and associate scientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

For the research, tests were given to 740 patients who had signed up to be part of a registry run by Mount Sinai, one of the largest hospital systems in New York that has been treating Covid patients since the early days of the pandemic. The patients, who were tested between April 2020 and May 2021, were 18 or older, spoke English or Spanish, tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and had no history of dementia. Results showed a relatively high rate of cognitive impairment 7.6 months after patients had contracted the disease.

The most common cognitive deficit — affecting nearly in 1 in 4 patients — was a problem with storing new memories, followed by issues with memory recall. Other challenges reported were deficits in processing speed and executive functioning, which includes the ability to initiate, plan, organize and make judgments…

Seeing severe mental deficits in patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s is “heartbreaking,” said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Post-Covid Clinic. Some say “they cannot function; they can’t think; their memory is impaired; they get confused when they drive places, that they don’t know how they got there.”