Although the global COVID-19 pandemic has subsided and lockdowns seem a thing of the past, cognitive symptoms persist even after a mild COVID infection. Indeed brain fog appears to be experienced by approximately 88% of ‘long COVID’ patients.
This brain fog is characterized by difficulties affecting planning, decision-making, processing speed and memory. But are there effective treatments for COVID-related brain fog? Based on the results of a study recently published in Scientific Reports, the answer is a resounding yes.
The randomized, sham-controlled, double blind trial examined the effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) on post-COVID patients with ongoing symptoms for at least 3 months after confirmed infection. In the study, conducted by Dr. Shai Efrati and his team at the Shamir (Assaf Harofeh) Medical Center, seventy-three patients were randomized to receive 40 sessions of HBOT or sham. NeuroTrax computerized cognitive testing (primary outcome) and secondary outcomes were administered at baseline and 1-3 weeks after the last treatment session. Significantly greater improvement over time in the HBOT vs. sham group was found for attention, executive function, and global cognitive function (which also correlated with increased perfusion in the left supramarginal gyrus). Taken together, results indicated that HBOT can induce neuroplasticity and improve cognitive, psychiatric, fatigue, sleep and pain symptoms.
The new study is the first prospective, randomized sham-controlled trial demonstrating significant improvement beyond the expected clinical recovery course in post-COVID patients. The results are the latest addition to a body of work from Dr. Efrati’s group showing beneficial cognitive effects of HBOT in such conditions as stroke and traumatic brain injury. In all of these studies, scores from NeuroTrax tests were the primary cognitive outcomes.
For cognitive assessment of patients who have recovered from COVID-19, NeuroTrax offers a 30-minute battery that consists of 6 tests covering memory, executive function, attention, and information processing speed domains. For more information, ask your NeuroTrax representative about the Post COVID Testing Suite.
Full text (open access):
Zilberman-Itskovich, S., Catalogna, M., Sasson, E., Elman-Shina, K., Hadanny, A., Lang, E., Finci, S., Polak, N., Fishlev, G., Korin, C., Shorer, R., Parag, Y., Sova, M., and Efrati, S. (2022). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves neurocognitive functions and symptoms of post-COVID condition: Randomized controlled trial. Scientific Reports, 12:11252. PMID: 35821512