Persistent neurologic symptoms and cognitive dysfunction in non-hospitalized Covid-19 “long haulers”

Edith L. Graham, Jeffrey R. Clark, Zachary S. Orban, Patrick H. Lim, April L. Szymanski, Carolyn Taylor, Rebecca M. DiBiase, Dan Tong Jia, Roumen Balabanov, Sam U. Ho, Ayush Batra, Eric M. Liotta, Igor J. Koralnik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

388 Scopus citations


Objective: Most SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals never require hospitalization. However, some develop prolonged symptoms. We sought to characterize the spectrum of neurologic manifestations in non-hospitalized Covid-19 “long haulers”. Methods: This is a prospective study of the first 100 consecutive patients (50 SARS-CoV-2 laboratory-positive (SARS-CoV-2+) and 50 laboratory-negative (SARS-CoV-2-) individuals) presenting to our Neuro-Covid-19 clinic between May and November 2020. Due to early pandemic testing limitations, patients were included if they met Infectious Diseases Society of America symptoms of Covid-19, were never hospitalized for pneumonia or hypoxemia, and had neurologic symptoms lasting over 6 weeks. We recorded the frequency of neurologic symptoms and analyzed patient-reported quality of life measures and standardized cognitive assessments. Results: Mean age was 43.2 ± 11.3 years, 70% were female, and 48% were evaluated in televisits. The most frequent comorbidities were depression/anxiety (42%) and autoimmune disease (16%). The main neurologic manifestations were: “brain fog” (81%), headache (68%), numbness/tingling (60%), dysgeusia (59%), anosmia (55%), and myalgias (55%), with only anosmia being more frequent in SARS-CoV-2+ than SARS-CoV-2- patients (37/50 [74%] vs. 18/50 [36%]; p < 0.001). Moreover, 85% also experienced fatigue. There was no correlation between time from disease onset and subjective impression of recovery. Both groups exhibited impaired quality of life in cognitive and fatigue domains. SARS-CoV-2+ patients performed worse in attention and working memory cognitive tasks compared to a demographic-matched US population (T-score 41.5 [37, 48.25] and 43 [37.5, 48.75], respectively; both p < 0.01). Interpretation: Non-hospitalized Covid-19 “long haulers” experience prominent and persistent “brain fog” and fatigue that affect their cognition and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1073-1085
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of clinical and translational neurology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • General Neuroscience


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