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Fear and worry over COVID can lead to impaired cognitive function: Study
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Fear and worry over COVID can lead to impaired cognitive function: Study


Toronto: Worries and anxiety over the Covid-19 pandemic can impair basic cognitive functions, leading to poorer decision making, delays in mental processing speed, and alteration of the perception of risk, finds a study.

The study led by researchers at McGill University and The Neuro - Montreal Neurological Institute - Hospital surveyed 1,517 people to assess the lingering impacts of the pandemic on a combination of cognitive tasks, targeting vital brain functions such as processing and maintaining information, The Times of Israel reported.

"The impairments associated with worry observed here suggest that under periods of high stress, like a global pandemic, our ability to think, plan, and evaluate risks is altered," Kevin da Silva Castanheira, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in McGill's Department of Psychology, was quoted as saying.

The survey asked subjects to rate their concerns over Covid-19, and then challenged them with various cognitive tests and compared the results to pre-pandemic samples. The tests measured things like reaction to stimuli - the ability to process and interpret information, and risk assessment.

The results showed that people who felt higher rates of fear or worry related to the pandemic did not perform as highly on simple cognitive tasks, and were more likely to experience "reduced information processing speed, ability to retain information needed to perform tasks, and heightened sensitivity to the odds they were given when taking risks".

"The impact of stress and of worry on cognitive function are well known, but are typically studied in the laboratory setting," said Madeleine Sharp, a neurologist at The Neuro. "Here, we're able to extend these findings by studying the effects of a real-world stressor in a large sample."

The findings are consistent with a study by Israeli researchers which showed that children experienced more stress as a result of the pandemic, exhibited unhealthy social and dietary habits, and were even prone to higher rates of violence, the report said.

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