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Doctors researching how COVID-19 can affect brain function

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 10:19 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - We know fighting COVID-19 can take a toll on your body, but what about your mind?

From nearly the start of the pandemic, researchers have been looking into how the virus can affect brain function.

A study from Oxford University shows psychiatric or neurological disorders are being diagnosed in those who have recovered from COVID-19. The study, released in April, found one in three virus patients will be diagnosed with one of these disorders within six months of getting infected.

In her office at Semmes Murphey Clinic in Memphis, neuropsychologist Dr. Katie Montry is starting to see more patients who have previously had COVID-19.

“I’ve had a lot of people come in complaining of things like brain fog, having trouble concentrating,” said Montry. “They’re more forgetful than they normally are. Certainly, there is a lot of discussion about feeling increased anxiety or stress, or depression.”

Montry said new information about how COVID-19 is affecting the brains of its patients is being discovered every day, but since it’s a new virus, there’s still a lot to find out.

Figuring out what’s going on is the first step in finding a solution for her patients.

“Deciding whether the problems with their memory and the attention they’re reporting is actually related the illness itself, whether that’s a lack of oxygen to the brain, maybe they were intubated, or if it’s more of direct mechanism of the virus infiltrating the brain,” Montry said.

Montry said it’s a subject many in her field want to know more about. She and a colleague will be speaking to their peers about the subject and what is known during next month’s Tennessee Psychological Association meeting.

Montry lost her dad to COVID-19 in February, making the work a personal and professional journey to find out more for her patients.

“Being able to talk to them about their experience and validating their experience,” Montry said. “Telling them because a lot of them think it’s in their head and they think they’re crazy, so just validating them.”

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