In Research square
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection is associated with risk of persistent neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric complications, termed "long COVID". It is unclear whether the neuropsychological manifestations of COVID-19 present as a uniform syndrome or as distinct neurophenotypes with differing risk factors and recovery trajectories. We examined post-acute outcomes following SARS-CoV-2 infection in 205 patients recruited from inpatient and outpatient populations, using an unsupervised machine learning cluster analysis, with objective and subjective neuropsychological measures as input features. This resulted in three distinct post-COVID clusters. In the largest cluster (69%), cognitive functions were within normal limits ("normal cognition" neurophenotype), although mild subjective attention and memory complaints were reported. Cognitive impairment was present in the remaining 31% of the sample but clustered into two differentially impaired groups. In 16% of participants, memory deficits, slowed processed speed, and fatigue were predominant. Risk factors for membership in the "memory-speed impaired" neurophenotype included anosmia and more severe COVID-19 infection. In the remaining 15% of participants, executive dysfunction was predominant. Risk factors for membership in this milder "dysexecutive" neurophenotype included disease-nonspecific factors such as neighborhood deprivation and obesity. Recovery trajectories at 6-month follow-up differed across neurophenotypes, with the normal cognition group showing stability, the dysexecutive group showing improvement, and the memory-speed impaired group showing persistent processing speed deficits and fatigue, as well as worse functional outcomes. These results indicate that there are multiple post-acute neurophenotypes of long COVID, with different etiological pathways and recovery trajectories. This information may inform phenotype-specific approaches to treatment.
Prabhakaran Divya, Day Gregory, Munipalli Bala, Rush Beth, Pudalov Lauren, Niazi Shehzad, Brennan Emily, Powers Harry, Durvasula Ravi, Athreya Arjun, Blackmon Karen