Neurocognitive deficits in severe COVID-19 infection: Case series and proposed model

Douglas M. Whiteside, Victoria C Oleynick, Erin Holker, Eric J. Waldron, James Porter, Michael Kasprzak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objective: To date, very few studies investigating neurocognitive deficits in COVID-19 have been published. This case series addresses cognition in post-COVID-19 patient by describing three patients in acute rehabilitation to inform a model of cognitive sequelae of COVID-19. Methods: Three English-speaking inpatients with severe symptoms and long-term intensive care unit (ICU) treatment are described. All patients had a premorbid history of hypertension and hyperlipidemia and experienced delirium and hypoxemia when hospitalized. Patient 1 is a 62-year-old male with 15 years of education with additional history of obstructive sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes. Patient 2 is a 73-year-old female with 12 years of education with a premorbid medical history of alcohol use disorder and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Patient 3 is a 75-year-old male with 14 years of education. No patients had premorbid psychiatric histories. Results: The three patients demonstrated deficits on formal neuropsychological testing, particularly with encoding and verbal fluency. Memory measures improved with a more structured story memory task compared to a less-structured verbal list-learning task, suggesting executive dysfunction impacted learning. None of the patients demonstrated rapid forgetting of information. Two patients endorsed new depressive and/or anxiety symptoms. Conclusions: The results suggest evidence for neurocognitive deficits after severe COVID-19 infection, particularly in encoding and verbal fluency. These results were interpreted with caution given the limited number of patients and the telephone-based battery. The specific mechanism that caused these cognitive deficits in these individuals remains unclear. A proposed three-stage model of cognitive dysfunction is described to help guide future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-818
Number of pages20
JournalClinical Neuropsychologist
Issue number4
Early online dateJan 25 2021
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • COVID-19
  • executive functioning
  • intensive care unit
  • memory
  • rehabilitation

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Journal Article


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