A significant number of people with long COVID contend with “brain fog”, cognitive symptoms such as difficulties with concentration and memory. There’s also growing concern about evidence that people who have had COVID are at increased risk of developing brain disorders, such as dementia.

It’s difficult to study how exactly a COVID infection affects the brain, because we can’t experiment on living people. To get around this, scientists from the Karolinska Institute created miniature brains from stem cells. After infecting these models with the coronavirus, they found an excessive elimination of synapses, the connections between brain cells. Two of the study’s lead authors tell us how this might explain the cognitive symptoms sometimes seen in long COVID.

Meanwhile, another new piece of pandemic-related research has explored the benefits COVID vaccines have had on our mental health. The effects of getting a jab were particularly positive for older and clinically vulnerable groups, significantly alleviating COVID-related psychological distress.

If you’re feeling stressed, you might look to exercise, activities you enjoy, or even mindfulness. One stress-buster probably not at the top of your list is fermented foods, but a new study suggests that including fermented foods and fibre in your diet can lower stress levels. When I’m feeling stressed, I often turn to a book. I have to say black vampire literature isn’t a genre I’ve come across before – but it does sound fascinating. With Halloween approaching and as the nights grow longer, here are three essential tales of black vampirism to enjoy.

Phoebe Roth

Commissioning Editor, Health + Medicine

Foods such as kimchi are great to include in a psychobiotic diet. Nungning20/ Shutterstock

Fermented foods and fibre may lower stress levels – new study

John Cryan, University College Cork

Our latest study adds further evidence that diet and mental health are closely connected.

COVID can cause long-lasting cognitive symptoms. But why? Alexander Limbach/Shutterstock

Long COVID: how lost connections between nerve cells in the brain may explain cognitive symptoms

Samudyata, Karolinska Institutet; Carl Sellgren, Karolinska Institutet

Many people face persistent cognitive symptoms after COVID-19. A new study, which grew and examined 3D models of the human brain, offers a possible explanation as to why this might be.

Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

Three essential tales of black vampirism

Joan Passey, University of Bristol

Black vampires have existed for 200 years in literature.

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