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Brain . Cognitive impairment and altered cerebral glucose metabolism in the subacute stage of COVID-19

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  • Brain . Cognitive impairment and altered cerebral glucose metabolism in the subacute stage of COVID-19


    . 2021 Apr 3;awab009.
    doi: 10.1093/brain/awab009. Online ahead of print.
    Cognitive impairment and altered cerebral glucose metabolism in the subacute stage of COVID-19

    Jonas A Hosp 1 , Andrea Dressing 1 2 , Ganna Blazhenets 3 , Tobias Bormann 1 , Alexander Rau 4 , Marius Schwabenland 5 , Johannes Thurow 3 , Dirk Wagner 6 , Cornelius Waller 7 , Wolf D Niesen 1 , Lars Frings 3 , Horst Urbach 4 , Marco Prinz 5 8 9 , Cornelius Weiller 1 2 , Nils Schroeter 1 , Philipp T Meyer 3



    During the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, neurological symptoms increasingly moved into the focus of interest. In this prospective cohort study, we assessed neurological and cognitive symptoms in hospitalized coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) patients and aimed to determine their neuronal correlates. Patients with reverse transcription-PCR-confirmed COVID-19 infection who required inpatient treatment primarily because of non-neurological complications were screened between 20 April 2020 and 12 May 2020. Patients (age > 18 years) were included in our cohort when presenting with at least one new neurological symptom (defined as impaired gustation and/or olfaction, performance < 26 points on a Montreal Cognitive Assessment and/or pathological findings on clinical neurological examination). Patients with ?2 new symptoms were eligible for further diagnostics using comprehensive neuropsychological tests, cerebral MRI and 18fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET as soon as infectivity was no longer present. Exclusion criteria were: premorbid diagnosis of cognitive impairment, neurodegenerative diseases or intensive care unit treatment. Of 41 COVID-19 inpatients screened, 29 patients (65.2 ± 14.4 years; 38% female) in the subacute stage of disease were included in the register. Most frequently, gustation and olfaction were disturbed in 29/29 and 25/29 patients, respectively. Montreal Cognitive Assessment performance was impaired in 18/26 patients (mean score 21.8/30) with emphasis on frontoparietal cognitive functions. This was confirmed by detailed neuropsychological testing in 15 patients. 18FDG PET revealed pathological results in 10/15 patients with predominant frontoparietal hypometabolism. This pattern was confirmed by comparison with a control sample using voxel-wise principal components analysis, which showed a high correlation (R2 = 0.62) with the Montreal Cognitive Assessment performance. Post-mortem examination of one patient revealed white matter microglia activation but no signs of neuroinflammation. Neocortical dysfunction accompanied by cognitive decline was detected in a relevant fraction of patients with subacute COVID-19 initially requiring inpatient treatment. This is of major rehabilitative and socioeconomic relevance.

    Keywords: 18FDG PET; COVID-19; Montreal Cognitive Assessment; cognition; neurology.