An infection from the novel coronavirus may lead to major changes in the brain, including the loss of gray matter and tissue damage, according to a new large study.

Driving the news: The study — published in the research journal Nature — reviewed brain scans from people from 51 to 81 years old before and after they were infected with COVID-19.

  • About half of the patients got COVID-19 between scans, per USA Today.
  • Many of the people who got COVID-19 lost their sense of smell.
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What they found: The study found that there was shrinkage and tissue damage in brain areas related to sense of smell, as well as areas associated with brain function.

  • The damage does not naturally occur with people who were not infected with COVID-19, the study said.
  • Those who required hospitalization from their COVID-19 infection had the most brain changes, according to USA Today.
  • Older participants had more changes than young participants, according to USA Today.

Why it matters: This study adds to the growing body of evidence that the novel coronavirus can have an impact on a patient’s brain, showing the long-term impact of COVID-19.

What they’re saying: “To me, this is pretty convincing evidence that something changes in brains of this overall group of people with Covid,” Dr. Serena Spudich, chief of neurological infections and global neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, told The New York Times.

Yes, but: “To make a conclusion that this has some long-term clinical implications for the patients I think is a stretch,” she told The New York Times. “We don’t want to scare the public and have them think, ‘Oh, this is proof that everyone’s going to have brain damage and not be able to function.’”

The bigger picture: Dr. George Vavougios, a neuroscientist at the University of Cyprus, told USA Today that the study is a sign doctors need to follow up with their patients after infections about the loss of smell and other neurological symptoms, such as brain fog.

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