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Covid 19: Fighting the Fog

Besides all of its devastating and deadly consequences, Covid 19 can also affect brain function – make you feel like you’re in a fog, confused, according to a California neuroscientist, Dr. Henry Mahncke, who says people of color may be especially


Dr. Mahncke is CEO of Posit Science, a California-based company that has developed a brain training app, Brain HQ, that he says can dramatically improve brain function, especially for people who are dealing with pre-dementia and other cognitive issues.

While covid 19 essentially is a respiratory ailment that targets the lungs, there also is evidence that it has a neurological effects on the brain as well, Dr. Mahncke explained.

"Lots of people during their infection report things like fogginess, dizziness, and headaches...Even once the virus has been cleared and people are returned to health, a lot of people are reporting long lasting feelings of fatigue, and fogginess, and lack of mental acuity and concentration problems," he said.

Does covid 19 have special impact on patients who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease?

"It seems likely that it does," replied Dr. Mahncke, saying while he knows of no specific study addressing that issue, "if you're already suffering from a brain health ailment in one way shape or form and then you have a second kind of insult, those kind of things add up. People in memory care centers and beyond are so vulnerable to this virus already, you have to worry that it has significant effects on their neurological health as well."

Dr. Mahncke was asked if he believes people of color, who have suffered a larger percentage of deaths per capita than white people, for example, might be especially vulnerable to adverse effects on the brain because of the stress resulting in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the black man who died in police custody after being restrained by white police officers.

"It very well might be," Dr. Mahncke responded. "We know that dementia

and Alzheimer's, like so many diseases, have an outsized negative impact on many communities of color across the country and across the world. Almost certainly, what it (the reason) is, is a lifetime of accumulated risk factors to the brain."

"It is highly likely that things like high stress and anxiety can affect dementia risk," and so, he said, individuals who suffer from those conditions throughout their lifetime can be especially at risk when new incidents that increase stress and anxiety occur -- just another reason why systemic racism in America must end.

Brain training, he said, can help, as it has been shown to improve several brain systems that typically degenerate toward dementia among patients with a pre-dementia diagnosis.

A study from researchers at the University of Rochester revealed that patients with amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI) can return to normal cognition, even though they are considered to be among the highest risk for progression to dementia, Dr. Mahncke explained.

“There’s a big difference between brain exercises designed to improve cognitive and real-world function and keeping your brain busy with ordinary brain games,” he said. “This research shows why that’s the case – exercises in BrainHQ improved connectivity across multiple regions, including networks that govern thinking and planning (the Central Executive Network), detecting and filtering important events (the Salience Network), and rapidly changing plans (Frontal Parietal Network). Ordinary brain games don’t do that.”

According to Dr. Mahncke, BrainHQ, which is available by monthly subscription from Posit Science, can also be checked out -- downloaded for free -- from some 250 public libraries across the country and is available at no cost in several Medicare Advantage plans.

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