“When we looked within the COVID-19 survivor group, we also found a significant relationship between the severity of their post-traumatic stress symptoms and how often their brain patterns are in that state,” said researcher Vince Calhoun. “If they spend more time in that state, they tend to have higher values on those symptom scales.”
Long-term impacts on brain function
For the study, the researchers analyzed fMRI scans from 50 COVID-19 survivors six months after they were infected with the virus to see if there were any noticeable changes to brain function. The participants also answered questions about their mental health and PTSD-related symptoms.
Ultimately, the participants reported several symptoms associated with PTSD, and the risk for the condition was highest when participants also experienced changes to brain connectivity patterns.
The researchers explained that brain connectivity patterns can change over time in major ways. The said COVID-19 survivors were more likely to experience a wide variety of different connections between visual capabilities and sensorimotor functions that ultimately increases their risk for developing PTSD.
Although anxiety symptoms were common among all recovered COVID-19 patients, the team found that women were more likely than men to develop PTSD-related symptoms. Moving forward, the team plans to do more research to better understand how brain function changes before and after a COVID-19 infection.