Even mild COVID-19 can cause your brain to shrink

Recent brain imaging shows the disease can cause physical changes equivalent to a decade of aging and trigger problems with attention and memory. Exactly why is still a mystery.

After being bedridden with fever and coughing for three and half days, Elena Katzap thought COVID-19 was behind her. The writer and teacher in Los Angeles had contracted the virus at the end of January 2022, and she felt grateful that she got only a mild case—she didn't have breathing difficulties and didn’t need to be hospitalized, and she recovered within days.

“I very specifically remember saying, God it feels so good to be healthy again,” says Katzap. “Then all of a sudden, the very next day it smacked me, and I didn't know what it was, because it started off with nausea and some stomach issues and some weird forgetfulness.”

Katzap has since experienced an acute loss of memory with poor concentration. She draws blanks in the middle of conversations, and words fail her mid-sentence. “It isn't physically painful, but it's so frustrating,” she laments.

Read This Next

Inspire your young adventurer with tips from Nat Geo Explorers
Three new snake species discovered in graveyards
Was this miracle plant eaten to extinction 2,000 years ago?

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet