Warning: Before-and-After COVID Brain Scans Reveal Damage

COVID Brain Scans

Since the pandemic began in 2020, we have been learning more and more about the short-term and long-term effects of COVID-19. The findings of the link between COVID and the brain are increasingly alarming. New brain imaging research from the University of Oxford shows that having COVID—even mild cases that don’t require hospitalization—can damage the brain in multiple ways. This new British study in the journal Nature joins a growing body of emerging research showing that the infection can lead to something referred to as “COVID-Brain.”

At Amen Clinics, before-and-after brain SPECT scans of patients with COVID reveal additional harmful changes in the brain. Based on the latest findings, here are 7 ways COVID negatively impacts the brain.

New brain imaging research shows that having COVID—even mild cases that don’t require hospitalization—can damage the brain in multiple ways. Click To Tweet
Before COVID: Normal Active SPECT Scan

Before COVID: Normal Active SPECT Scan

 

After COVID_Active Scan-Increased Limbic Activity

After COVID: Active SPECT Scan Showing Increased Limbic Activity

7 WAYS COVID HARMS THE BRAIN

1. Brain shrinkage.

For the British study, 785 volunteers underwent MRI brain scans prior to the pandemic. When they were rescanned, an average of 38 months later, 401 of the individuals had received positive results from a COVID test. The brain imaging results of these participants were compared to the 300-plus who had not tested positive for the virus. One of the biggest surprises to researchers was a decrease in brain volume. Compared to those who weren’t infected, the COVID group had 0.2% to 2% more shrinkage. When it comes to the brain, size matters!

2. Up to a decade of brain aging.

According to UK researchers, a 2% reduction in brain volume is equivalent to roughly 10 years of aging. Nobody wants a brain that looks older than it should.

3. The cerebellum takes a hit.

The shrinkage seen in the brain in the Nature study was in part due to loss of volume in the cerebellum, an area located at the back, bottom of the brain. The cerebellum is involved in motor coordination as well as thought coordination. It is essential for processing complex information and is involved in processing speed. When the cerebellum is low in activity, people are more likely to be clumsy and to have difficulty solving complex problems. They process their thoughts more slowly and tend to get confused more often than those with healthy cerebellum activity. In the British study, the participants who had COVID experienced come cognitive decline.

4. Thinning in certain brain regions.

Findings from this brain imaging research showed a loss of thickness in two key areas of the brain involved that are involved in the sense of smell—the orbitofrontal cortex and parahippocampal gyrus. One of the common symptoms of COVID is anosmia or the loss of the ability to smell. Anosmia is also an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

5. Even mild COVID cases cause brain changes.

People whose COVID symptoms are mild enough that they don’t require hospitalization are at risk for harmful impacts on the brain. Of the 401 participants in the British study who tested positive for COVID in the study, only 15 were hospitalized.

6. Bigger impact in older adults.

The participants in the Nature study ranged in age from 51-81 years old. The brain imaging results revealed that the negative effects of COVID on the brain were evident in all age ranges but were more pronounced in the elderly.

7. Overactivity in the brain’s emotional centers.

At Amen Clinics, before-and-after COVID brain SPECT scans show heightened activity in the limbic system, which is the brain’s emotional center. Too much activity here is linked to an increased risk for depression and negativity.

HEALING A DAMAGED BRAIN

Although emerging research reveals how COVID can harm that important organ inside your head, it’s important to remember about neuroplasticity. This means the human brain can change, and if you put it in a healing environment, it can improve. That is the fundamental finding from analyzing over 200,000 brain SPECT scans at Amen Clinics—you can change your brain and change your life. Even if you get COVID and experience brain-related symptoms it is possible to make strides back to greater health and well-being.

There are many natural ways to lower inflammation related to COVID, beat post-COVID depression, improve sense of smell, and manage chronic COVID symptoms.

Symptoms associated with long COVID and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

52 Comments »

  1. No wonder my meds aren’t as affective as they should be. I recently was diagnosed with COVID nearly 4 months ago. After 2.5 weeks, I was energy depleted and my depression became worse. Now it’s been hard for me to even begin to get on task and out of the bed and the dark room. I have children so they are my motivation, yet now and even with anxiety and depression meds, I have to force myself to interact with them and others like I did before COVID hit me.

    Comment by Nhenry — April 20, 2022 @ 3:33 AM

  2. What are the facts about tinnitus? I’ve now got a buzzing in my ears since I contracted Covid. I’m only a few days clear of covid, so is there a chance it will go?

    Comment by Hamish — April 20, 2022 @ 3:38 AM

  3. Why imply we can help it and then not tell us?

    Comment by Ladonna — April 20, 2022 @ 4:07 AM

  4. This is terrible news I’ve been sick from long covid for 16 and a half months I wonder what it’s done to my 65 year old brain.

    Comment by Brian Maloney — April 20, 2022 @ 4:10 AM

  5. Since this was done in England, how many had the vaccination?? I think that might have an impact on some of this data. I would venture to guess that most had it.

    Comment by Paula Loe — April 20, 2022 @ 4:11 AM

  6. Nurses I work with are really having issues with this. Not only short term memory but long term as well. I work at Ochsner LSU Monroe Louisiana. It’s so aggravating to not have the snap memory that was our normal now. We struggle sometimes and it’s not like it’s threatening our patient care. But myself and my charge nurse get angry and/or cry about it. We discuss it and it’s all over the hospital. Patients and our coworkers. What can you do about it!?

    Comment by Sheri Walker — April 20, 2022 @ 4:33 AM

  7. I am curious as to whether or not those who received Covid vaccine also had changes in their brains. We know that the vaccines affected their hearts and caused blood clots in many cases. Also, thanks for the article but what would have made it extraordinary would have been to explain in some detail how people could help to reverse this damage. You say it can be done but you do not say how.

    Comment by Sandi Russ — April 20, 2022 @ 4:42 AM

  8. Can you provide more info on what a healing environment for the brain looks like?

    Comment by Christy — April 20, 2022 @ 4:52 AM

  9. I am 74 I can see that I am slower to react and for example pull up a name. I have had Covid and also the vaccines so not sure what I can do to improve but if there is someway to do so I would love to hear about it.

    Comment by Sue Shaffer — April 20, 2022 @ 5:00 AM

  10. Interesting article. I am a healthcare professional and COVID survivor. I love your work. and enjoy hearing Dr . Amen speak live. Since your scan and program are “high ticket” investments, since you don’t accept insurance, it limits your help to only higher wage earners or people probably able to take a 2nd mortgage on a home or willing to dissolve investments or have the credit to take out large loans. For everyone else – Could you create an ebook for free download for tips COVID survivors, and seniors can do to help heal the brain post COVID or if early onset of Dementia is expected? It would also interest people more perhaps in better understanding the value of your ongoing groundbreaking research. Just wish your scans and program were more accessible to more people. Really love your work!

    Comment by Caesi Bevis/ Crisis Coaching — April 20, 2022 @ 5:22 AM

  11. I’m interested in enhancing my brain’s neuroplasticity. Since COVID, my left thumb and toe feel like they both have arthritis. I also feel at a loss for words at times. I had COVID in Jan 2022 🙁

    Comment by Jennifer Buergermeister — April 20, 2022 @ 5:25 AM

  12. Thank you, Dr Amen for thei amazing and timely research.

    Comment by Andrew P Delany — April 20, 2022 @ 5:42 AM

  13. This is a great article. What are some ways we can improve our brain and create a positive nurturing environment for your brain?

    Comment by Mary Ann — April 20, 2022 @ 6:24 AM

  14. How do u go about retraining the brain. Limbic system ??

    Comment by Robbin — April 20, 2022 @ 6:27 AM

  15. Wow, I did not realize that the virus effected the brain that way. Thank you for the information.

    Comment by Margie Graham — April 20, 2022 @ 6:37 AM

  16. Given the psychological impact that the extreme reaction to the situation has caused I would say the majority of it is due to more psychological fear and paranoia and people thinking they have all the stuff have all of these things when they believe it it’s real and it causes People to think and put in their mind that these things are happening most of it in their head thanks to all the erroneous and misinformation has been out there this whole time. If you’re under the stress and fear that has been propagated throughout this whole situation of course you’re gonna think you’re sicker yesterday and I think your brain isn’t working yes yes yes. But that does not make it actually so.

    Comment by Taylor — April 20, 2022 @ 6:40 AM

  17. @Hamish , I have had tinnitus for 5 months now. I found some relief with chiropractic, but I too wonder if it will ever go away.
    Dr Amen, what can we do to help this go away?

    Comment by Nancy Parlette — April 20, 2022 @ 6:46 AM

  18. This is a great article. What are some ways we can improve our brain and create a positive nurturing environment

    Comment by Yeshi Ayele — April 20, 2022 @ 6:49 AM

  19. Great read. I feel it is best to get vaccine while do other important tasks as hand hygiene, masking and distancing when needed and taking proper vitamins and food. It is worst worst shame how majority of unvaccinated have become hospitalized, died or become long haulers from their worst ignorance and clear evidence that the vaccinated with breakthrough infections for most part have fared better off.

    Comment by Samar — April 20, 2022 @ 7:05 AM

  20. Yes I agree with some of the above comments. I had Covid and feel my brain has definitely changed. Unfortunately I am retired 68 and have Medicare and not enough cash to visit an Amen Clinic as I have wanted to since reading Change your Brain Change your life 10 years ago. I wish he would publish some ways us low income folks could supplement & heal our brains 🧠

    Comment by Rhonda Jourdonnais — April 20, 2022 @ 7:09 AM

  21. I had polio as an infant. I now have Post Polio Syndrome. Did Polio also affect the brain as Covid has?

    Comment by Kathy Chavez — April 20, 2022 @ 7:19 AM

  22. I had Covid 2 months ago . Mild case. Now I have extreme head fog and I am exhausted all the time. My muscles and joints are sore as well. I’m a very fit active person and this has just taken me down. I have heard of this Covid brain. Glad there is more research and info on it.

    Comment by Terra — April 20, 2022 @ 7:22 AM

  23. What do brain scans look like pre vs. post vaccination?

    Comment by Joy — April 20, 2022 @ 7:33 AM

  24. Yes how many of these people were vaccinated? And how do we heal the brain? This article was less than helpful. Sorry to say.

    Comment by Sara — April 20, 2022 @ 7:34 AM

  25. How many of the participants in the study had the Covid shots? How much is the brain affected by the shots?

    Comment by Marcia Smart — April 20, 2022 @ 7:51 AM

  26. I have had a headache and buzzing continuously for five months, since being diagnosed with COVID. .

    Comment by Carol Rumpf — April 20, 2022 @ 7:52 AM

  27. After my unhospitalized Covid bout last January symptoms I still have are burning lungs When I exert any effort like stairs, my balance is definitely off, depression and fatigue are a daily thing now. My taste has come back. I definitely believe it affected my brain. I am grateful to hear of your ongoing research to recognize this is very real and needs to be addressed.

    Comment by V. Murray — April 20, 2022 @ 7:59 AM

  28. Very in formative . I have had noise in my ears since the second vaccination . Got Covid after the booster and then got shingles. I am 79 and wonder about the second booster ? What will it affect?

    Comment by Anne — April 20, 2022 @ 8:30 AM

  29. Great article, thank you! I have questions…
    1. Will you be writing up suggestions and a protocol that we can take with our clients to heal the Covid brain?
    2. Can we find statistics to see if the 0.2-2% decrease is cumulative with each bout of Covid?
    3. Can we ‘clean up’ the statistics to see if subjects had been vaccinated or not?
    4. Can we determine if the vaccine, which programs the body to produce the protein, causes the self-same changes as the disease itself?
    Thank you so very much – I love your no-nonsense approach. THANK YOU!
    Julie Taylor MTC (Counsellor)
    5. There is also an epidemic of drug overdoses here in Vancouver, Canada and I wonder if there are doctors who are trained in your SPECT technology here in Canada? Again, I wonder if there is a protocol we can use with clients to help them heal?

    Comment by Julie Taylor — April 20, 2022 @ 9:30 AM

  30. What is a healing environment?

    Comment by Diane — April 20, 2022 @ 9:35 AM

  31. I had covid November 2020 – only a migraine that lasted 3 days and then on the third day I lost my sense of smell and taste. At the time all of my tests came back that I didn’t have covid. Finally in January 2021 my functional doctor had my antibodies checked and it was covid. Here I am 17 months later and still don’t have my senses, I finally fixed my digestive system with supplements and diet change. My memory had issues from a prior concussion, I feel i am better but need to take omega 3s daily. What can I do to make sure this doesn’t get worse??

    Comment by Andrea — April 20, 2022 @ 10:47 AM

  32. I had Covid 7/2020, not hospitalized, but had me down for 30 days. I had kaleidoscope vision, ocular migraines etc. I supported myself with high quality supplements and came through it. My brain did not. I’m ADD and now 10 fold. I cannot a afford your program, but would love to have a handful of tools to help rebuild the brain and get out of my own way. I think an ebook, as someone mentioned, is an excellent t idea. I’d even be willing to pay a manageable fee. Or an affordable virtual program. Love your work, been following you for years. Thank you!

    Comment by JoJo — April 20, 2022 @ 11:41 AM

  33. Please send info on hair loss and Covid. Thank you.

    Comment by Carol — April 20, 2022 @ 11:47 AM

  34. Have you looked at supposedly ‘therapeuticsl’ measuresxand the connection between brain effects? Eg , Remdesivir and/or ventilation confounds, and vaccine 1,2,3 doses … anyone done an orthogonal study on your stats? Otherwise they are pretty suspect.

    Comment by Sha'alah Ivory — April 20, 2022 @ 12:12 PM

  35. I have not had COVID, but this is something that I experienced as a cancer survivor after strong chemotherapy. As someone with ADHD, I also struggle with memory issues from this as well. I fear COVID would hurt me more. Any tips?

    Comment by Lisa Friedman — April 20, 2022 @ 1:06 PM

  36. I had Covid in January 2022. I am still so fatigued; I do not feel rested after getting more than 8 hours of sleep. Though sometimes, I cannot sleep I am 60 years old I have troubles at times doing many daily tasks. I REALLY DO NOT CARE if my house is clean, etc. I sit at my desk and do not care if I do my work. We are self Employed and I go and lay down by 3pm… I sleep for about 3 hours, make dinner and go to bed early. I am worried because I do have the Alzheimer gene later in life. I was a patient with AMEN Clinics in 2019. It would be interesting to see if my brain has changed since I had Omicron, yes, I am vaccinated too. If I could afford to have another test at the AMEN Clinics I just might. I hope I start getting some energy back, nothing helps, not even caffeine, vitamins or exercising.

    Comment by Lori Rattray — April 20, 2022 @ 1:49 PM

  37. Also need to see how we can help our brains heal

    Comment by barbara gritzmaker — April 20, 2022 @ 2:06 PM

  38. Dr. Amen’s many books, dvds, cds, and his wife’s cookbook probably all help with the Covid symptoms, eg. Super Brain. Also, I am creating a more healing environment inside my skull by using the PQ training app and courses from Positive Intelligence dot com.

    Comment by Arden Varnel — April 20, 2022 @ 2:08 PM

  39. Really great article. And yes, I can confirm from first-hand experience, and now working with hundreds of individuals as a neuroplasticity coach, that it is fully possible to rewire your brain through self-directed neuroplasticity. Glad to see this science making its way to the foreground.

    Comment by Ben — April 20, 2022 @ 2:53 PM

  40. I had COVID in 4/2020 with psychosis., confusion, delerium, and suicidal ideations. I was comitted to a mental hospital for over 6 weeks with no treatment or meds other than antidepressant. I now take 2 other meds prescriberd by my psychiatrist for control of my symptoms. I also sufferd fromPTSD prior to COVID. This has been a nightmare for me. So little was known at the time of my having COVID that the MDs didn’t know how to treat me, so I was put away.

    Comment by Joe Scott — April 20, 2022 @ 3:11 PM

  41. . I had Covid in latter part of Oct and first part of Nov.. There are now times when I can’t remember names of people I’ve known forever. can’t even remember most of the time I was in the hospital.
    Have tinnitus really bad in right ear and throbbing in left. Headaches are terrible on my right side. Is there anything. I can do for it! Hate all the meds. they give me promising it will help.

    Comment by Carolyn stump — April 20, 2022 @ 3:38 PM

  42. Great article! In Dec 2021, I got a mild case of Covid. Now I sometimes have trouble finding the right words … I’m 71. What are some ways I can reverse this and nurture my brain? Thank you.

    Comment by Elaine — April 20, 2022 @ 4:05 PM

  43. Is there any research yet whether those who get mild covid after receiving both vaccines have milder neurological issues than those who are unvaccinated?

    Comment by kali miller — April 20, 2022 @ 4:17 PM

  44. What do the vaccines do to the brain??

    Comment by Anne — April 20, 2022 @ 4:31 PM

  45. I am glad to see this study. I had Covid March of 2019 for five weeks almost died but did stay home. I was considered one of the worst Covid cases my Dr had seen . Since having Covid I am not able to multi task, process things that are simple, I have no interest in opening boxes of clothes, or put my new I Mac up . I feel stupid 90% of the time. My speech is delayed as is my response to problems. I’m scared my place has piles of stuff that needs to be done. I have no ability to get things done in any order . I’m only 62 and have been apologizing for my speech stopping to remember a word. I have a 50 hour Masters. In Behavior , a profiler . I use to do at least five major things a day. I had to quit work because I would freak the register and floor sets. Before Covid I was a retired Special Ed teacher working in retail at Orvis. Now, I am able to do one thing a day and don’t usually remember it. Help !

    Comment by Deborah MacFarlan — April 20, 2022 @ 4:46 PM

  46. Had Covid Dec 18, 2020 until Jan 1, 2021. It didn’t affect my lungs, but some of my symptoms were so bad, thought I’d never “wake up”, and really couldn’t help myself. Now, my recall memory is really bad. It dies affect my work performance. I’ve been taking Dr Amens supplement, “Focus and Energy”, & has helped but not with the memory. I wonder if he would advise a different or additional one for memory? Thanks Dr.Amen! 🙂

    Comment by Lilly Stevens — April 20, 2022 @ 5:00 PM

  47. It would be interesting to see any correlation of the test data and the people being exposed to millimeter wave technology. Is mm wave tech affects water molecules.

    Comment by Heide Richards — April 21, 2022 @ 11:27 AM

  48. Dr. Amen, have you done any research on the impact of the vaccines on yhe brain?

    I’m also interested in knowing if you have done any research into POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and the brain. Many long COVID patients are developing POTS-like symptoms.

    Comment by Sandy — April 21, 2022 @ 11:25 PM

  49. What can one do if they fear they have some brain damage due to covid

    Comment by Lucia — April 22, 2022 @ 3:50 AM

  50. Is covet vaccine effects the brain too ?Because I have epilepsy and since I got the vaccine it is out of control!

    Comment by Faye — April 22, 2022 @ 2:22 PM

  51. My husband and I both tested positive for Covid in late January 2022. We were very, very sick. I had a lot of nervous stomach issues, which I never had before. I dreaded to get up in the morning and face the day. I was upset with just a small amount of things to do. I had to take care of my husband as well and we took a course of Ivermectin which helped us overcome covid. It has been a long journey and I feel I am different after this demonic disease which was put upon the people of the world. I cry a lot easier and get more upset than I used to at small decisions. My hubby is a good listener and he listens to me when I spew out my angst. I too have a lot more trouble remembering names and places at a moments notice. I verbally tell my brain to bring them up and believe it or not I usually come up with them after awhile. My sister said to me, ” well perhaps part of all of that is that you are now 81 years old.” I do agree, except before covid, I was the same age and could do a lot better. We have Dr. Am,en’s package of everything and I intend to get started with good food and things that help the brain…..only problem with post-covid it is difficult to get the desire to do much and I have to force myself. hope a hope!

    Comment by Carolyn Headrick — April 23, 2022 @ 9:59 AM

  52. Awesome articles on COVID. I have found everyone one of them informative and helpful in creating a healthier lifestyle in recovering from post COVID symptoms…one I was living up until about 3 years ago when I had to care for an ill family member and only had energy…and time…to fix one meal. Unfortunately, I could not get him to change his way of eating at that point in his life, so I gave up mine. If I would have stayed with mine, I may not be dealing with the post COVID symptoms.
    To those who are looking for more information on what you could be doing, click on the links at the end of the article. They will take you to previous articles that will provide some very helpful information. Also explore BrainMD.com for more information. And take the quiz if you haven’t already. It may provide more information that could help. TanaAmen.com is a great website for additional information and dietary suggestions too for creating a healthy brain (and body) environment. I doubt that I will ever be able to afford an evaluation, but I can afford time to read. These websites and links could help others fill in the gaps.
    Thanks, Amen Clinics and staff, for all you do and share!

    Comment by Carol — April 24, 2022 @ 2:58 PM

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