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Microglia and COVID

Microglia and COVID

The last issue of this newsletter had an article about COVID brain studies in the UK.  A recent article in Science adds to these preliminary findings.  Neuroscientists in this country have noticed that the neurologic symptoms seen in many COVID patients (fatigue, brain fog, trouble remembering and headache) are very similar to those seen in other viral infections and with disorders such as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and even with chemotherapy. 

In addition to similar symptoms, the brains in all these cases show changes in the microglia.  Microglia are the supporting and nurturing cells for the neuronal cells that allow us to think and act.  It seems that immune activation of these cells in response to COVID infection causes the microglia to go into hyper drive and interfere with normal neuronal function. 

Spinal taps done on patients with “COVID brain” show higher levels of immune activating proteins than normal patients.  One of these proteins is CCL11, which is also found in the spinal fluid of patients with dementia. 

Dear Doc: My wife says if I don’t wear my hearing aids I’ll get dementia. Could she be right?

Dear Doc: My wife says if I don’t wear my hearing aids I’ll get dementia. Could she be right?

The answer to your question is yes; and, furthermore, I personally always follow the mantra: “Happy, wife; happy life.”

Unfortunately, hearing loss is very frequent: 3 in 10 over age 60; 1 in 6 aged 41-69 (Baby Boomers), and 1 in 14 aged 29-40 (Generation X).

However, untreated hearing loss leads to loss of gray matter (the thinking part of our brains). Also, the extra effort used by people straining to hear interferes with normal cognition. Finally, the social isolation that can occur from hearing loss leads to mental stagnation.

Neuroscientists have actually found that correcting hearing loss in individuals already diagnosed with dementia slows the progression of the disease.

Two other reasons to listen to your wife have to do with heart disease and the risk of falling. The Framingham Heart Study found a correlation between low-frequency hearing loss and heart disease. As it turns out, having uncorrected hearing loss leads to higher levels of adrenal gland output which can elevate heart rate and blood pressure.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that a 25-decibel hearing loss increased the risk of falling three fold. Hearing loss makes an individual less aware of their overall environment, thus increasing fall risk. Straining to hear and process auditory input distracts the brain from other activities such as maintaining balance.

Finally, cochlear (the hearing part of your ear) disorders can impact vestibular (the balance part of the ear) function.

Bottom line – listen (pun intended) to your wife.