Neurocognitive Impairment in Long COVID: A Systematic Review

Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2024 Jun 8:acae042. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acae042. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: Although Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is primarily a respiratory infectious disease, it has also been associated with a wide range of other clinical manifestations. It is widely accepted in the scientific community that many patients after recovery continue to experience COVID-19-related symptoms, including cognitive impairment. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate the cognitive profile of patients with long-COVID syndrome.

Methods: A systematic search of empirical studies was conducted through the PubMed/Medline and Scopus electronic databases. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies published between 2020 and 2023 were included.

Results: Of the 516 studies assessed for eligibility, 36 studies met the inclusion criteria. All included studies support the presence of persistent cognitive changes after COVID-19 disease. Executive function, memory, attention, and processing speed appear to be the cognitive domains that are predominantly associated with long-COVID syndrome, whereas language is an area that has not been sufficiently investigated.

Conclusions: In this review, the high frequency of cognitive impairment after COVID-19 is evident. If we consider that cognitive functioning affects our ability to live independently and is a key determinant of our quality of life, it is imperative to precisely define those factors that may induce cognitive impairment in COVID-19 survivors, with the ultimate goal of early diagnosis of cognitive changes and, consequently, the development of targeted rehabilitation interventions to address them.

Keywords: Language; Long COVID; Neurocognitive impairment.