Mounting Research Shows That COVID-19 Leaves Its Mark on the Brain, Including Significant Drops in IQ Score

Yves here. The evidence of Covid-19-induced damage is becoming both more solid and more grim. I had previously though that the cognitive impact of a case of Covid-19 was a loss of 1 IQ point. More comprehensive studies are finding that the reduction is typically 3 IQ points. On top of that, it can lead to an earlier onset of dementia. The IQ impact alone is so significant that across society it will change how we do work and even how some care for themselves.

By Ziyad Al-Aly, Chief of Research and Development, VA St. Louis Health Care System. Clinical Epidemiologist, Washington University in St. Louis. Originally published at The Conversation

From the very early days of the pandemic, brain fog emerged as a significant health condition that many experience after COVID-19.

Brain fog is a colloquial term that describes a state of mental sluggishness or lack of clarity and haziness that makes it difficult to concentrate, remember things and think clearly.

Fast-forward four years and there is now abundant evidence that being infected with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – can affect brain health in many ways.

In addition to brain fog, COVID-19 can lead to an array of problems, including headaches, seizure disorders, strokes, sleep problems, and tingling and paralysis of the nerves, as well as several mental health disorders.

A large and growing body of evidence amassed throughout the pandemic details the many ways that COVID-19 leaves an indelible mark on the brain. But the specific pathways by which the virus does so are still being elucidated, and curative treatments are nonexistent.

Now, two new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine shed further light on the profound toll of COVID-19 on cognitive health.

I am a physician scientist, and I have been devoted to studying long COVID since early patient reports about this condition – even before the term “long COVID” was coined. I have testified before the U.S. Senate as an expert witness on long COVID and have published extensively on this topic.

How COVID-19 Leaves Its Mark on the Brain

Here are some of the most important studies to date documenting how COVID-19 affects brain health:

  • Large epidemiological analyses showed that people who had COVID-19 were at an increased risk of cognitive deficits, such as memory problems.
  • Imaging studies done in people before and after their COVID-19 infections show shrinkage of brain volume and altered brain structure after infection.
  • A study of people with mild to moderate COVID-19 showed significant prolonged inflammation of the brain and changes that are commensurate with seven years of brain aging.
  • Severe COVID-19 that requires hospitalization or intensive care may result in cognitive deficits and other brain damage that are equivalent to 20 years of aging.
  • Laboratory experiments in human and mouse brain organoids designed to emulate changes in the human brain showed that SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers the fusion of brain cells. This effectively short-circuits brain electrical activity and compromises function.
  • Autopsy studies of people who had severe COVID-19 but died months later from other causes showed that the virus was still present in brain tissue. This provides evidence that contrary to its name, SARS-CoV-2 is not only a respiratory virus, but it can also enter the brain in some individuals. But whether the persistence of the virus in brain tissue is driving some of the brain problems seen in people who have had COVID-19 is not yet clear.
  • Studies show that even when the virus is mild and exclusively confined to the lungs, it can still provoke inflammation in the brain and impair brain cells’ ability to regenerate.
  • COVID-19 can also disrupt the blood brain barrier, the shield that protects the nervous system – which is the control and command center of our bodies – making it “leaky.” Studies using imaging to assess the brains of people hospitalized with COVID-19 showed disrupted or leaky blood brain barriers in those who experienced brain fog.
  • A large preliminary analysis pooling together data from 11 studies encompassing almost 1 million people with COVID-19 and more than 6 million uninfected individuals showed that COVID-19 increased the risk of development of new-onset dementia in people older than 60 years of age.
Autopsies have revealed devastating damage in the brains of people who died with COVID-19.

Drops in IQ

Most recently, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine assessed cognitive abilities such as memory, planning and spatial reasoning in nearly 113,000 people who had previously had COVID-19. The researchers found that those who had been infected had significant deficits in memory and executive task performance.

This decline was evident among those infected in the early phase of the pandemic and those infected when the delta and omicron variants were dominant. These findings show that the risk of cognitive decline did not abate as the pandemic virus evolved from the ancestral strain to omicron.

In the same study, those who had mild and resolved COVID-19 showed cognitive decline equivalent to a three-point loss of IQ. In comparison, those with unresolved persistent symptoms, such as people with persistent shortness of breath or fatigue, had a six-point loss in IQ. Those who had been admitted to the intensive care unit for COVID-19 had a nine-point loss in IQ. Reinfection with the virus contributed an additional two-point loss in IQ, as compared with no reinfection.

Generally the average IQ is about 100. An IQ above 130 indicates a highly gifted individual, while an IQ below 70 generally indicates a level of intellectual disability that may require significant societal support.

To put the finding of the New England Journal of Medicine study into perspective, I estimate that a three-point downward shift in IQ would increase the number of U.S. adults with an IQ less than 70 from 4.7 million to 7.5 million – an increase of 2.8 million adults with a level of cognitive impairment that requires significant societal support.

Another study in the same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine involved more than 100,000 Norwegians between March 2020 and April 2023. It documented worse memory function at several time points up to 36 months following a positive SARS-CoV-2 test.

Parsing the Implications

Taken together, these studies show that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to brain health, even in mild cases, and the effects are now being revealed at the population level.

A recent analysis of the U.S. Current Population Survey showed that after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an additional 1 million working-age Americans reported having “serious difficulty” remembering, concentrating or making decisions than at any time in the preceding 15 years. Most disconcertingly, this was mostly driven by younger adults between the ages of 18 to 44.

Data from the European Union shows a similar trend – in 2022, 15% of people in the EU reported memory and concentration issues.

Looking ahead, it will be critical to identify who is most at risk. A better understanding is also needed of how these trends might affect the educational attainment of children and young adults and the economic productivity of working-age adults. And the extent to which these shifts will influence the epidemiology of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is also not clear.

The growing body of research now confirms that COVID-19 should be considered a virus with a significant impact on the brain. The implications are far-reaching, from individuals experiencing cognitive struggles to the potential impact on populations and the economy.

Lifting the fog on the true causes behind these cognitive impairments, including brain fog, will require years if not decades of concerted efforts by researchers across the globe. And unfortunately, nearly everyone is a test case in this unprecedented global undertaking.

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  1. Basil Pesto

    On top of that, it can lead to an earlier onset of dementia.

    I remember GM sounding the alarm on Covid and early onset dementia as early as 2021, if not earlier.

    This risk has been borne out with abundant subsequent research as laid out above. We’ve seen studies – trustworthy ones – on neurological sequelae published on something like a monthly basis for years now. They’ve all pointed in troubling directions, and all been ignored by both public health, and much of the electorate for whom this pathogen is now another vector of moronic politicisation, and whose opinion on it is prejudicially formed by the attendant biases that come with that politicisation (“WEF scamdemic”/“I got vaccinated so not my problem anymore”/“actually, everything bad is because of the vaccine”, take your pick). I’ve also increasingly noticed those who are coming around to the idea that we have a big problem on our hands with this disease, but are just completely crushed by the hopeless fatalism of it all and are simply resigned to the problem, and hope their (and their loved ones’) infections will be relatively benign.

    Al-Aly does great work but he and his colleagues (perhaps out of responsible circumspection, perhaps realpolitik) are not really spelling out the real and plausible – in a 2 + 2 = 4 sort of way – tail risk here, which is that the brain damage that any given SARS/Covid infection can cause means that, having been applied repeatedly to almost the entire population, there’s a plausibly non-zero risk that we’ll see a secondary epidemic of early onset dementia in the decades to come.

    On the bright side though, we’re positively drowning in post-“lockdown” freedom. Smiles are back!

    1. Ghost in the Machine

      “I’ve also increasingly noticed those who are coming around to the idea that we have a big problem on our hands with this disease, but are just completely crushed by the hopeless fatalism of it all and are simply resigned to the problem, and hope their (and their loved ones’) infections will be relatively benign.“

      I shower my family with this information and this is also the response I get. Also people are not talking. I was wondering where the stories were given the numbers. At a work social (I know) of my wife’s over drinks, one of her coworkers confessed to me her son fell into depression with self harm worries 2 weeks after a Covid infection and she herself had persistent inflammatory problems. People just aren’t talking I think. I brought up Covid after some drinks had been consumed.

    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      that muteness before the overwhelming is part and parcel for just about any dern thing we talk about here at NC, when one exposes a random specimen of the herd to it.
      peak oil, peak phosphate peak economics(!),peak RBIO/Empire,…the media/cia/propaganda problem….and on and on almost forever(commonality is:”what cant continue, wont continue forever”)
      people seize up, mentally….because whatever doomer trope yer on about is just too big.
      Cassandra’s Dilemma.
      (to be prophetic(“serpents licked my eyes!”), but yet utterly disbelieved/ignored(“everything’s fine”, with dog at flaming table))

      as for the article, itself….shouldn’t be a surprise to us, here,lol….
      but the utter failure, accidental or on purpose, of gov, media, et alia, will only make the eventual outcome all that much worse…ignore it/un-understand/misunderstand/while thinking you understand it…. until it’s far, far too large to do anything about(see:David/Aurelien’s latest!)

      the masochist part of my brain…in collusion with the Little Vulcan in my Head part…has been thinking about re-reading Toynbee…like, for months!
      because we’re frelling there, man!
      the Creative Elite has long ago(but in my lifetime) given way to the Dominant Minority…and the Internal and External Proletariats should be quite obvious, by now.
      the abridged, 2 volume version, is on that shelf right there, looking at me(i read it in the 12 vol version, via the now moribund Texas Interlibrary Loan program, that rickfuckingperry killed.

    3. David

      Epidemiological studies by definition cannot establish causation due to the inherent noise in the data among other inherent statistical flaws. how can all these studies rule out the impact of (to name a fraction of the potential influences): prior treatment with any of the experimental gene therapy injections, high insulin, poor diet, stress and anxiety etc. Its irresponsible for reports to come out like this unless, once again, it is part of the narrative control to which we are all subjected every day.

  2. millicent

    The covid IQ loss results are hard to interpret. The NEJM article does not specify what instrument(s) was/were used to assess IQ. It does not appear to be the standard WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales). Most established cognitive tests have a standard error of measurement (SEM) +/- 4. If that is the margin of error of the assessment used, this fluctuation is within measurement error. If the results are assumed to be reliable and stable (big assumption without knowing the SEM), the change is mainly in working memory or executive functions, i.e., the loss is in terms of vigilance and the ability to hold larger amounts of information “on line”, rather than reasoning. This is not to discount how critical a loss of vigilance/attention span is but there are some work arounds for it as opposed to deeper issues of reasoning. Covid certainly affects brain function but it is not the only problem affecting drop in IQ as most NC readers would certainly suspect.

    1. jake

      The cognitive measures used in the study (“global cognitive score”) are based on a battery of web-administered tests, allegedly representing the “gold standard” for “detecting neurodegenerative disorders”:

      The IQ figures are “equivalents” — how they arrived at them is unspecified.

      The only good news is, the study reports no such decline for mild infection (<4 weeks) with the later variants. The initial variant, Delta and omicron are the variants showing the declines.

      Note also, other respiratory infections in older adults show similar declines in brain function.

      1. jrkrideau

        allegedly representing the “gold standard” for “detecting neurodegenerative disorders”:

        It’s an interesting paper but I would want to see a bit more information and a lot more piloting before accepting it as the “gold standard”. There are enough acronyms and $%#&^%^% horribly formatted tables that it’s difficult to get a quick grasp of whats actually going on, especially as I only have a passing knowledge of the reference tests.

        As millicent points out above those scores read very suspiciously.

    2. Samuel Conner

      Standard deviation of measurement or “sample standard deviation” is always larger than “standard deviation of the mean” of the population of measurements. For simple normally distributed processes, I believe that the relationship is “std dev of mean” = “sample std deviation” divided by sqrt(N – 1), where “N” is the number of measurements in the sample.

      A population mean shift that is comparable to the individual standard measurement uncertainty is a very significant shift. I think there are grounds for alarm.

    3. albrt

      “the loss is in terms of vigilance and the ability to hold larger amounts of information ‘on line’, rather than reasoning”

      Like Reply’s comment below, the wife and I caught pre-Covid in January 2020. It was relatively mild. Ever since then I have felt exactly as you describe – my mind moves more slowly and I have more trouble holding two ideas in my mind at once. I can compensate by being more careful and writing things down, but I can only compensate to the extent that I recognize the sort of problems I used to be able to solve and then work toward a simulacrum of the solution I would have reached before.

    1. Jason Boxman

      I noticed that, and unsurprisingly it leaves out of the headline that this applies to _any_ COVID infection, not just long COVID. But NY Times readers want to believe it’s just unfortunate long-COVID suffers at risk, not the “general” population. There’s gonna be quite a rude awakening.

      As they’re saying on COVID Twitter, this is the year of FO. (find out, I think, but could be f**k off as well)

      And we’ve got people flying airplanes and driving huge semi-tractors on the road, driving school buses, installing HVAC systems, pouring concrete, welding steel, ect ect. Gonna be great! Really are gonna be “finding out” over the next 25 years, ain’t we?

  3. JBird4049

    >>>On the bright side though, we’re positively drowning in post-“lockdown” freedom. Smiles are back!

    In the way misery loves company?

    Honestly, at first I was personally terrified of the effects of having Covid at least once. Then of my family. But now, I am horrified of what is happening to all the children who have been repeatedly infected. Children whose brains are still developing. Like my nieces. Of all the schools full of repeatedly infected children whose minds are being destroyed before they even grow up

    Damn, I want to remain informed, I am grateful for being informed, but the more I understand the more I either want to drug myself into oblivion or watch the whole world just burn.

    1. Reply

      Mr. and Mrs. Reply got what we’re calling pre-COVID in that infamous January just prior to the corona news. We were sickish all month with symptoms remarkably similar to those that became notorious soon thereafter.

      Going through checklists later, we looked for any interaction with Italian skiers, Chinese travelers or whatever else we could find. Nada. That was pre-kit, so testing was what we had left behind in school ages ago.

      Now comes an article author warning of IQ declines. As if we didn’t already have enough to worry about just surviving to our dotage with semi-functioning brains, eliminating aluminum, foregoing artificial sweeteners and too many other products. Gaah.

    2. Valerie in Australia

      I couldn’t agree more. While, as a classroom teacher in Australia, I was required to be vaxed – and did so quite willingly at the beginning when hospitals were being overrun – I was always very uneasy with parents willingly marching their kids off to the paediatrician to get the Covid Vaccine as soon as it was available. And you are correct, Covid is all over the schools and classrooms. Shortly after the first big round of vaccines for children took place, there were so many vaxxed kids who got Covid in my school, that several classes were completely shut down for a week. Everyone seemed/seems to treat it like the flu.

  4. PAER

    My father contracted covid-19 on his 90th birthday (Jan 1st). He had mild dementia at the time and had to be hospitalized for several weeks. After the infection his condition dramatically deteriorated and needs full time care. I’m one of the few trying to protect myself and my family. I’m increasingly saddened by the lack of concern, the societal dysfunction and absence of public health. I’m fearful of the anger that will manifest once more and more understand the impact to us, our children …

  5. JonnyJames

    This is pretty scary stuff in the context of the “dumbing down” of the population. Maybe it’s just my perception, but dementia seems to have increased, I have a couple of family members who have it. The two so-called candidates for POTUS display symptoms of dementia as well.

    When it comes to basic critical thinking skills, it seems like a majority of US dwellers have been electronically lobotomized. The nearly ubiquitous use of electronic devices, including TV, seems to have contributed to short attention spans and lack of cognitive deliberation. (What George Carlin called “thinking” lol) I don’t see a lot of critical thinking going on in the public. I think the MassMedia is to blame as part of this. There may be some evidence to support that, but I have no expertise in that field.

      1. LawnDart

        They themselves are not immune.

        However, considering what “the elites” have already done to our schools, public discourse as shaped by their media, the mind-numbing entertainments they peddle as distractions from our troubles, if the response to covid (or lack thereof) is a deliberate attempt to further incapacitate the proles, it does seem quite gratuitous.

        Have you noticed that quite a few comments or replies (where they are still allowed) to online posts seem like gibberish these days? Easy to overlook, but it does make me wonder– kinda like the Yankee Candle barometer.

        1. Roger Boyd

          Bad planning though if the US and the Western elites want to have a chance against China (and Russia, and Iran and…). Having a compliant population is self-defeating if that same population is failing in efficiency, effectiveness and creativity. Also, who is going to operate all those high tech weapons if their IQ is lowered by both COVID and bad schooling, and thats not counting the huge obesity and drug (legal and illegal) epidemic among young adults?

          The Western elites just keep on destroying the very foundations that support their wealth, power and incomes.

          1. steppenwolf fetchit

            The “Western” elites view themselves as “World” elites, as in “Davos Man”. They think they can move themselves and their personal wealth out of the “West” to somewhere in the “non-West” where they will still have enough to be wealthy and where their wealth will make them welcome.

            They view the West as a burn-down . . . as in ” burn it down, grab the insurance money, and run”.

  6. longhaul7

    long time reader (2007/08), dollar contributor, seldom comment. I’m actually enrolled in one of the studies, COVID 2 years ago, rash for 24 months, right arm asleep for several months and ongoing serious cognitive issues. As a small business owner (perhaps a strike against me to begin with, as Yves might say) the executive functional impairments have me struggling. The effects will be felt in all fields (as NC readers have noticed) and fit nicely into the “crapification” escapade we’re experiencing. I really can’t do the job i used to do and to add a very personal note, I feel as if I’ve had a mild lobotomy. My “edge” seems gone – you know, one of the characteristics that made me, me. perhaps that was one of the functional gains of someone’s research.

    1. playon

      Having continued to play gigs as a musician if front of audiences (which was my life and joy) after the initial lockdown, then having repeated infections as a result I can only wonder WTF I was thinking. Otherwise I’ve been careful, always masking up to run errands etc. I’m done playing in front of live audiences now but the damage has been done. I was a pretty smart guy with a higher than average IQ but I feel like I have aged 10 years in the last 3 and can no longer remember things such as simple recipes which were once second nature. I can still play my instrument very well so I assume that uses a different part of the brain. I will miss playing out live but I have come to terms with it.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes there is. Aspartame in the Coke Zero. That crap is terrible. And the stack recommendations are very hard to read with that black background.

    2. kareninca

      That is terrible. And you are smart enough to notice it all and describe it all. It is happening to most of us, I think, but a lot of people are just confused.

    3. Valerie in Australia

      I don’t know what to say. I’m so sad reading your comment. I also contracted Long Covid about 10 months ago and basically had to quit my job. I am 63, so close enough to retirement that I can tutor part time to make it work financially – but I couldn’t have gone back to full time work if I had to. There is no “powering through” this. And I get where you are coming from; while the exhaustion is hard, it is the brain fog and the effect LC has had on my executive functioning that is so worrying. I have even gone to my doctor (twice) to ask if she can give me a test for early onset Alzheimer’s.

      I’m writing to offer something that has helped me somewhat – and I really have to stress that I am generally NOT into alternative therapies. But I’ve had some improvement with bio-resonance. I jokingly tell everyone its Voodoo and I don’t know why it works – but I’ve had it for six months, long enough for the placebo effect to wear off (and I am generally not at all suggestible anyway). I am better but not the same as pre-Covid, so no miracles. The reason I think the therapy is actually working – as opposed to recovering over the passage of time – is I quit after three months to take a two week vacation visiting family in Perth. I felt worse and worse over the fortnight and by the time I got home, it was like I had Covid again. So I am convinced this therapy is helping me – no matter how strange it sounds.

      I wish you well on your journey to recovery.

  7. Jason Boxman

    In the same study, those who had mild and resolved COVID-19 showed cognitive decline equivalent to a three-point loss of IQ. In comparison, those with unresolved persistent symptoms, such as people with persistent shortness of breath or fatigue, had a six-point loss in IQ. Those who had been admitted to the intensive care unit for COVID-19 had a nine-point loss in IQ. Reinfection with the virus contributed an additional two-point loss in IQ, as compared with no reinfection.

    If this pans out; If this really applies population wide as an outcome from infection, this is a killshot for humanity, full stop. It would be bad enough if SARS2 was a one and done. It’s not.

    If you thought the quality of the cinema had gone done before the Pandemic, you ain’t seen nothing yet! This is gonna be like setting your intelligence attribute to 2 in DnD. Fun times await!

    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      So are you saying every film from now on will be “Idiocracy” — or “Idiocracy” as made in an idiocracy?

    2. Roger Boyd

      More a kill shot for the West, which managed the COVID outbreak so badly. China did in the end remove its more restrictive COVID policies but that had kept COVID at bay for a very significant amount of time at the peak of the pandemic. Also, China does not have the childhood obesity, drug dependence (legal and illegal), failing school system and university drop in quality issues that the US has.

      1. Basil Pesto

        A three year delayed start won’t make a difference for China on the relevant timescale, which is decades, not years. As I understand it, once China joined the rest of the world in infinite maximum covid policy, anecdata of sequelae arrived very quickly afterward on their social media.

        I’m not really sure how it’s a “kill shot”, humanity seems pretty adaptable to such things and there’ll still be plenty of smart people around. But there will certainly be a noticeable decline.

        1. Cassandra

          >I’m not really sure how it’s a “kill shot”, humanity seems pretty adaptable to such things and there’ll still be plenty of smart people around.

          This is true; however, we are just discussing the cognitive effects here. The neurological damage can also result in varying degrees of debilitating dysautonomia. And then there is the damage to the immune system, which with HIV usually takes about 6-8 years to become obvious.

          I am afraid the Great Dying is just getting started. Will it kill everyone? Certainly not, but disease is only one aspect of the Jackpot. It seems increasingly likely that the not-too-distant future will be very different from the recent past. And adaptation will be much more difficult for a population which is intellectually impaired.

  8. Rubicon

    The very premise of these studies are questionable. In order to come to those conclusions, every person who was studied, would have required a battery of tests BEFORE Coviid. Those tests would have included speech pathologist tests and tests conducted by trained psychologists: IQ tests.

    It’s highly doubtful any of those citizens had ever been given a battery of tests as children, or young adults because they’re very expensive.

    Instead, those scientists are finding people, AFTER Covid, who may have always had those deficits incurred during their early childhood years.

    Those tests do not Stand as real evidence.

    1. jake

      When measurable differences between infected and non/infected are repeatable and consistent across a huge sample, that’s meaningful information.

      Note also, this study does not stand in isolation. Some smaller studies, where before and after comparisons are possible, are quite alarming — MRIs clearly depicting brain shrinkage and accelerated aging.

    2. playon

      That may be so, but I can tell you that it is a real thing and I am far from the only one with personal experience.

  9. LawnDart

    We still need a doc/medical pro to hammer this home; that each, everyone, and all of us will be dealing with the damage caused by covid– if not within yourself, then in others you know personally.

    A big, big problem is that the covid-induced brain-injury may leave the preson afflicted unable to recognize that their own thinking is askew, leaving them unaware of new difficulties, problems, or limitations that they are facing, often denying these or rationalizing these away (“I must not have slept well last night… what’s 2+2 again?”)

    And, oh boy, let me tell you– this is fun! Especially when they start making-up shit, often unintentionally, to fill in the holes left behind by the missing pieces of their minds.

    For you, during an encounter with someone who suffers from this sort of invisible damage, it can feel like they are trying to gaslight you. And, not being very good at mind-reading, you may wonder why they are doing this: “is it something personal? Do they think I’m stupid?”

    You’ve encountered the crazy street-people during your travels, muttering/yelling/crying to themselves and making wild movements and gestures as the result of a schitzophrenic episode… you wouldn’t think to argue with them, that what they’re seeing or sensing isn’t real, because you know whatever is affecting them is very real, at least to them. And it’s the same thing that we all will be facing or dealing with during our encounters wiith long-term aquaintences, friends, coworkers, and family-members who’ve been damaged by this virus.

    That “shared-reality” that we rely upon will be tested further… I wonder if it has its limits, and if so, will it snap like a rubber-band or simple shatter into a million pieces?

    1. JBird4049

      >>>We still need a doc/medical pro to hammer this home; that each, everyone, and all of us will be dealing with the damage caused by covid– if not within yourself, then in others you know personally.

      Isn’t the unpredictable, rolling the dice, nature of Covid part of the problem? If you get Covid, you cannot know what kind, if any damage, you will get. It could be nothing or you become a vegetable. It could be permanent, but you could get better. You could live or you could die. All you can really do is tilt the odds in your favor, but you can still roll snake eyes, whatever you do.

      Covid is just not in our cultural memory. At least with a stroke, if you tell someone that they had one, they are more likely to take it seriously because everyone knows the damage is uncertain, getting better is uncertain, everything is uncertain, but the serious attention it needs is certain. It is part of the ingrained cultural responses.

      1. LawnDart

        Yes, in a way– but it’s physiological, not psychological, and specifically caused by damage to the frontal lobe gray-matter that gives us self-awareness.

        It also is more about the loss of abilities that one may have had, versus one’s believing that they have skills or abilities which they never possessed.

        So perhaps it is less Dunning and more Freddie…

        1. steppenwolf fetchit

          But if the covid damage damaged those parts of self-awareness brain-function which made one aware that one’s brain-mind had lost function, then it could be a physiologically-caused sort of Dunning-Krueger analog . . . . a Covidunning-Kruger syndrome of sorts.

  10. Es s Ce Tera

    I fear dementia and dumbing down more than I fear death or incapacity. But do most people, I wonder?

    1. untethered jana

      I have no fear of death since I know intellectually it is inevitable. I have, since a childhood spiritual experience at aged 8 years, known that I am a sojourner here. My innate and insatiable curiosity had lead me to learn so very much, so pondering is previous to me. Ironically, these keep me grounded and ‘tuned in’ to reality.
      I do have concerns with any brain loss but I lost that fear when I understood how little control I have over such matters.
      Enjoy the beauty that each day beholds!

  11. bobert

    This is terrifying. I am surrounded by people who are taking exactly zero (0) precautions, people who are living their “best lives” with nary a thought to infection. For some, reinfection. People who quickly change the subject when I try to tell them the danger they are in. I sometimes struggle to even think of them as people as opposed to an amorphous mass of bio hazardous, ambulatory flesh.

    1. reify99

      I’ll get into it.

      My partner and I both had H1N1 in 2009 and both lost some respiratory function which has not come back. Hers has morphed into multiple chemical sensitivity which waxes and wanes. Sometimes when we are out for a walk a whiff of dryer sheets or fireplace wood smoke, car exhaust fumes, etc, starts a reaction,- first in her ears, then a burning in her chest, and if we haven’t quickly spun on our heels and gotten out of there, a full fledged asthma reaction that lasts for hours, has her up half the night, etc.

      That 2009-2010 flu was actually declared a pandemic (though that fact has largely been forgotten.) Even the flu is not “just a flu.” I don’t think these respiratory viruses really have “settled” effects as they keep mutating in their traveling (airborne) clouds. Why can’t the sequelae of Covid build on the earlier immune dissembling of a previous H1N1?
      What silo will hold them apart?

      No thank you. We are now in our 5th year of quarantine. We were fortunate that we could isolate to protect ourselves. (Retire.) Part of that has also been avoiding the healthcare system of course. I was out of there (my healthcare job,) as soon as we got past the point of being able to do contact tracing and Fauci told us we didn’t need to wear masks. Having done some time as a Public Health nurse I knew that wasn’t the way it was supposed to go.

  12. Glenda

    Strangely after my 1st (hopefully only) bout of Covid J1 in December, I mentioned to my daughter that I thought my IQ had dropped 20 pts. Recently after 2 mo. I feel as if I’ve regained some Exec. function, and “only’ feel a drop of 10 pts. How do I know this?? But as a retired sole proprietor of a business, I’ve been used to pretty high functioning. Now I’m glad I’m retired and can pace myself to take into account this decrease, and still do all my local activism.

  13. SocalJimObjects

    Just to share a personal anecdote, I got a “mild” case of Covid in late 2022. Since then, I have never taken an IQ test, but I’ve been doing a ton of computer algorithmic problems on Leetcode, a website well known among jobseekers in the tech industry. In the past (before Covid) I would struggle with solving any problem marked as Hard, but in the past year, my skill has improved to the point that I can solve some (not all) Hard problems pretty quickly. In addition to that, I have seen continued improvement in my Chinese and Japanese studies, late last year, I went to the Land of the Rising Sun for 2 months, and I spoke Japanese throughout my stay with no issues.

    Putting all that aside, Covid certainly did a number on my body, my fasting blood sugar went from around 90 to 115, and I experienced some hair loss. Thankfully after about a year, my blood sugar returned to normal and my hair has grown back to how it was, and no I did not take any medications, just vitamins.

    Covid is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and I am continuing to take precautions including wearing an N95 when going out, but I am doubtful Covid will impact everyone equally.

  14. kareninca

    I called the VA hospital to ask about their hearing aid repair clinic, which we used before the pandemic. I explained our need to the nice phone person. She asked me if I wanted the optician’s office. I said no, it was for hearing, not vision. She gave me a phone number which I wrote down, then kindly transferred me. The phone rang but was not answered. I then tried calling the number she had given me; it rang but was not answered. I tried googling the number; it was the number of the general medical records office.

    I then tried the link on the VA hospital’s website that leads to their Denver hearing aid repair facility. The link worked but the site is not readable since the print and the background are both black.

    This is a small thing but I think it is representative.

  15. kareninca

    Is an IQ of over 130 really a sign of being highly gifted? In any manner? That isn’t terrifically high. I suppose it will count as extremely high pretty soon, but was it pre-pandemic?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please read the post. It said it held with wild type, Delta, and supposedly mild Omicron. Those variants are so different that it would suggest yes.

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