AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: brain fog

Covid Brain Fog

COVID BRAIN? That’s a thing? Yes. Within the metaphorical shadow of an ice sheet, “brain fog” has evolved into a comprehensive label, encompassing the intricate cognitive, psychological, and emotional struggles intertwined with long COVID.3D medical animation coronavirus structure

The referenced article shares the story of Kenton Kaplan, a senior in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, showing signs of COVID-related brain symptoms. Ken’s year-long battle with severe memory loss, extreme fatigue, and immunosuppression highlights the diverse experiences enclosed by this term. Despite its recognition as a federally acknowledged disability, individuals reporting “brain fog” face disbelief, hindering their access to necessary accommodations. 

Emily Mendenhall, a medical anthropologist, explored the varied manifestations of long COVID symptoms beyond the popular definition of mild forgetfulness. Interviews with 22 sufferers revealed debilitating episodes, with individuals describing struggles with daily tasks during “brain fog” episodes. These individuals spoke of debilitating days where routine tasks became overwhelming: chronic nerve pain, severe headaches, episodes of dizziness, nausea, and fainting. The disparity between how healthcare professionals perceive “brain fog” and the actual experiences of those affected emphasizes the necessity for clear categorizations that can more effectively address the range and intensity of symptoms. 

Faced with difficulties in securing accommodations, Ken’s ongoing struggles with sporadic memory loss emphasize the importance of acknowledging the complexity of a cloudy consciousness. Clearer names and understanding the various aspects of symptoms could help make medical leave and accommodations more accepted. This support would be beneficial for those dealing with the continued effects of long COVID in their everyday lives.

When the immune system encounters specific pathogens, such as the COVID-19 virus, it relies on the binding action of B cell antigen receptors or antibodies to epitopes on the pathogen for recognition. This recognition serves as a trigger, setting off a cascade of events that activate B cells and stimulate the production of antibodies. These antibodies play a crucial role in safeguarding the body against the virus. This shows how important a strong immune system is in dealing with complicated conditions like long COVID, especially when it comes to cognitive challenges like “brain fog.”

A couple of weeks ago, my mom tested positive for COVID, marking the first time she had ever faced the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. Despite being up to date on all her vaccines, including mRNA shots, which introduce genetic material into cells to prompt the production of viral proteins and trigger the immune system, she still experienced a severe case. Unfortunately, COVID hit her hard, unleashing a wave of symptoms ranging from chills and fever to body aches, a runny nose, and a persistent cough. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, she started experiencing heightened anxiety as she struggled with memory lapses, struggling to recall the day she tested positive, losing track of time, and questioning how long she had been in quarantine. It was a tough period for her, navigating not only the physical toll of the illness but also the mental strain of uncertainty. So, how can we collectively raise awareness about the diverse experiences encapsulated by the term “brain fog” and advocate for better understanding and support?

Is Long COVID-Induced Brain Fog Also Related to Blood Clots?

-As learned in AP Biology, the virus that causes COVID-19 is the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It has spike proteins attached to it that bind to the ACE2 receptors on our healthy cells which allow the virus to fuse with them. The viral envelope attaches to the membranes of our cells and then releases its genetic information to the inside of them. Its RNA hijacks the cells and instructs its machinery to create more virus particles, causing it to further infect the body.

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Shown above: SARS-CoV-2 virus with spike proteins attached.

After suffering from COVID-19, many people have experienced a condition called long COVID. Long COVID is a condition that causes either new or previously experienced symptoms from the COVID-19 virus to develop and linger for weeks, months, or even years after recovery. While scientists are constantly discovering more about the condition, they are still not completely sure what causes it. The variety of symptoms in addition to the lack of understanding regarding this topic result in the inability to properly treat the condition as a whole. Instead, doctors usually treat the symptoms individually and specifically to the patient. Some symptoms include chronic pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, intense fatigue, and brain fog. New research shows that long COVID-induced brain fog could possibly be linked to blood clots.

Data were collected from about 1840 unvaccinated adults in the UK who were hospitalized due to severe COVID symptoms. The patients provided blood samples when initially hospitalized, 6 months after hospitalization, and 1 year after hospitalization. They also completed cognitive tests and filled out questionnaires.

Blood clotting is a process that prevents uncontrolled blood loss when a blood vessel is injured. A type of blood cell called platelets combine with proteins in the plasma to form a clot over the injury. However, sometimes blood clots do not dissolve naturally or they can form when there is no injury, which can be very dangerous. Fibrinogen and D-dimer are two proteins involved in blood clotting, which were also later predicted to be linked to brain fog. Fibrinogen is created by the liver and is one of the main components in the formation of blood clots. D-dimer is a protein fragment that is released when the blood clot breaks down. People with more severe COVID cases and higher levels of fibrinogen proved to have worse memory and attention skills and overall rated their cognition more poorly on surveys. People with higher D-dimer levels also rated their cognition as poor and showed to have more trouble going back to work six to 12 months after recovery.

Figure 16.4.4 : Blood Clot

These proteins have already been linked to COVID-19 and fibrinogen has been linked to cognitive issues but scientists are still not completely sure how the proteins cause brain fog in long COVID. Dr. Maxime Taquet, a clinical psychiatrist at the University of Oxford, suspects that the blood clots could be blocking blood flow to the brain or directly interacting with nerve cells. Scientists wonder whether medicines used to treat blood clotting, such as blood thinners, could possibly reduce brain fog and other cognitive issues.

While I have not gotten an official diagnosis, I am very curious about long COVID because I experience many of the symptoms. I’ve had a lasting cough, brain fog, and reflux. Do you or have you ever experienced long COVID symptoms?

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar