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Several studies have reported that the pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) influenced cognitive function in the elderly. However, the effect of COVID-19-related fear on brain atrophy has not been evaluated. In this study, we evaluated the relation between brain atrophy and the effect of COVID-19-related fear by analysing changes in brain volume over time using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Participants were 25 Japanese patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or subjective cognitive decline (SCD), who underwent 1.5-tesla MRI scan twice, once before and once after the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19, and the Fear of Coronavirus Disease 2019 Scale (FCV-19S) assessment during that period. We computed regional brain atrophy per day between the 1st and 2nd scan, and evaluated the relation between the FCV-19S scores and regional shrinkage.
There was significant positive correlation between the total FCV-19S score and volume reduction per day in the right posterior cingulate cortex. Regarding the subscales of FCV-19S, we found significant positive correlation between factor 2 of the FCV-19S and shrinkage of the right posterior cingulate cortex.
There was positive correlation between the FCV-19S score and regional brain atrophy per day. Although it is already known that the psychological effects surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic cause cognitive function decline, our results further suggest that anxiety and fear related to COVID-19 cause regional brain atrophy.
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