Elisa Riva – Pixabay

Latest research out of the UK suggests that COVID-19 can have some alarming effects on the human brain, in addition to its better known symptoms.

In the study, which appeared in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, stroke appears to be the most common brain complication, occurring in 77 of the people studied.

Behavioural changes, confusion, and altered mental states were also widely reported, along with depression and anxiety. Ten patients developed psychosis after contracting COVID-19, and six developed dementia-like symptoms.

These figures come from a study of 153 patients treated in UK hospitals during the acute phase of the pandemic, with data being collected between 2 and 26 April 2020.

The authors of the study noted that these people were selected by expert doctors, and likely represent the most severe cases. Further study is needed to see how many people in the wider population have experienced these sorts of problems after contracting COVID-19.

First nation-wide study

Lead author of the study, Dr Benedict Michael, from the University of Liverpool said, ‘There have been growing reports of an association between COVID-19 infection and possible neurological or psychiatric complications, but until now these have typically been limited to studies of ten patients or fewer.

‘Ours is the first nation-wide study of neurological complications associated with COVID-19, but it is important to note that it is focused on cases that are severe enough to require hospitalisation.’

More research needed

Co-author Professor Sarah Pett, from University College London, UK, said: ‘This data represents an important snapshot of the brain-related complications of COVID-19 in hospitalised patients. It is critically important that we continue to collect this information to really understand this virus fully.

‘We also need to understand brain-complications in people in the community who have COVID-19 but were not sick enough to be hospitalised. Our study provides the foundations for larger, hospital and community-based studies.

‘These studies will help inform on the frequency of these brain complications, who’s most at risk of getting them, and ultimately how best to treat,’ said Professor Pett.

The research now needs to be replicated in other countries, including Australia. Thankfully, the situation is much less serious here, so far.