JAN 22, 2023 4:35 PM PST

Brain Game Predicts Viral Infection

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A study published in Scientific Reports found a link between viral infection risk and an individual's alertness and reaction time. Researchers from the University of Michigan, Duke University School of Medicine, and the University of Virginia conducted the first virus exposure study in humans to show that cognitive performance prior to exposure to a respiratory virus can predict the severity of infection.

It is common knowledge that stress, poor diet, and poor sleep quality weaken the human immune system. As study author, Dr. Alfred Hero stated, "We all know that if we're stressed, or haven't slept enough, that predisposes us to have a less resilient immune system." Subtle variations in everyday cognitive performance can signal brain changes known to increase the risk of illness, and brain functioning can be negatively impacted by stress, fatigue, and poor sleep. The team measured cognitive function and explored whether it could predict immune performance after exposure to a respiratory virus. The study found that cognitive variability measured with a digital self-test can be used to predict immune performance.

The study included a cohort of 18 healthy volunteers who took brain performance tests three times per day for three days and then were exposed to a cold virus (human rhinovirus). Eighteen measurements of cognitive function, including reaction time, attention, and rapid switching between numbers and symbols were analyzed to determine an index of variability. The team evaluated viral shedding by using a saline solution to rinse out the nasal passages of participants. Participants rated the severity of their common cold symptoms.

The researchers believe that smartphones could be used to identify times of heightened viral susceptibility. A smartphone can effectively monitor sleep quality and cognitive indicators like typing speed and accuracy. Periodic home monitoring using self-test digital platforms can revolutionize brain health assessment. 


Eureka News Alert, Scientific Reports



About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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