Increasing evidence suggests that infection with Sars-CoV-2 causes neurological deficits in a substantial proportion of affected patients. While these symptoms arise acutely during the course of infection, less is known about the possible long-term consequences for the brain. Severely affected COVID-19 cases experience high levels of proinflammatory cytokines and acute respiratory dysfunction and often require assisted ventilation. All these factors have been suggested to cause cognitive decline. Pathogenetically, this may result from direct negative effects of the immune reaction, acceleration or aggravation of pre-existing cognitive deficits, or de novo induction of a neurodegenerative disease. This article summarizes the current understanding of neurological symptoms of COVID-19 and hypothesizes that affected patients may be at higher risk of developing cognitive decline after overcoming the primary COVID-19 infection. A structured prospective evaluation should analyze the likelihood, time course, and severity of cognitive impairment following the COVID-19 pandemic.
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