Many COVID-19 patients who have recovered remain afflicted with persistent and lasting cognitive impairments in the areas of attention, memory to language comprehension, multitasking as well as fatigue. The symptoms may persist for a number of weeks or months after the initial signs of infection have diminished.
In a study that was just published, researchers have demonstrated that the cognitive impairment of COVID patients can be greatly improved within the span of three or four days by using intermittent brain stimulation that is non-invasive using the use of microcurrents (NIBS).
They have reported their findings on two patients with COVID that are long-term within Restorative Neurology as well as Neuroscience.
“COVID infection can cause delayed cognitive impairments that can be very serious for some individuals,” explained lead investigator Bernhard A. Sabel, Ph.D. Director of the Institute of Medical Psychology, Medical Faculty, Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany.
“Common symptoms are fatigue, breathlessness, and cognitive impairments like a reduced attention span and the loss of short-term memory each of which has profound effects on daily functioning. There is currently no efficient treatment that can improve visual or cognitive impairments that result from COVID-19 within this short amount of period of time.”
Vascular disorders in the brain and retina could be the cause of COVID-19-related symptoms that last for a long time. Since patients complain of loss of vision they speculated that NIBS treatment could aid in cognitive recovery. This was based on the previous success of improving the vision of many of their glaucoma patients who took this method of treatment.
Two patients suffering from long-COVID-19 females were treated for the duration of 10 and 13 days respectively, by alternating current stimulation of eyes and the brain for 45 minutes each day. Both experienced vision impairments and severe cognitive impairments that led to them being unable to perform routine tasks. One sufferer (age 40) was infected with COVID-19, the second (age 72) had been suffering from symptoms since the AstraZeneca vaccination.
After and before therapy, cognition was evaluated through a subjective interview, while visual areas were measured with the perimetry. A patient also evaluated by a battery of cognitive tests and the retinal dynamic vascular analyzer (DVA) as an indicator of the brain’s vascular dysregulation.
In both patients, both NIBS significantly improved cognition and reversed a portion of visual field loss in about three or four days. The notable improvement in their cognitive capabilities include less fatigue and improved short-term memory, attention and multitasking. Both could get back to work. The analysis of blood vessels within the eye indicated that the improvement could be attributed to the recovery of constriction of blood vessels that could be the cause of cognitive and visual decline.
Cognitive tests that were formalized showed recovery of 40%-80 percent in the cognitive sub-functions, with perimetry results that showed stable and visible field recovery after following-up. DVA showed that NIBS reduced vascular dysregulation by normalizing vessel dynamics (dilation/constriction), with particularly noticeable changes in the small venous and arterial microvessels.
The investigators suggest hypometabolic neurons to be the likely biological reason behind the neurological impairments that are manifested in COVID symptoms that last for long periods and that NIBS triggers the “silent” neurons through Reoxygenation that is the alleged foundation of recovery.
“This study is significant because 20% to 30% of patients with COVID-19 suffer from significant cognitive impairments for a long time after the initial signs of the infection have diminished and the clinicians have offered little until now,” noted co-author Andreas Gonschorek, MD, from the BG Clinic, Neurocenter Hamburg, Germany.
“But there is a risk higher for COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized approximately 60% of them experiencing decline in their cognitive abilities within the first four months. They often experience long-lasting impairment that affects speech output, memory executive and memory functions. They may also experience abnormalities in moods, including anhedonia, depression, and reduced stress resilience.”
“This marks the very first time the possibility of cognitive impairment being ameliorated within such a short amount of time. We believe our approach may benefit patients with COVID that has been long-standing all over the world, enhancing cognition,” concluded Professor Dr. Sabel.
“Our results are in line with our previous hypothesis that neuronal reserves in the residual state are reactivated through behavioral training , or NIS, providing the biological basis for the recovery the central nervous system functions in the eye and the brain. Although NIBS is being offered in clinics and in clinical trials, more research needs to be conducted to investigate the mechanisms behind its the action more thoroughly.”