Tuesday, January 10, 2023
In winter, the chances of catching a cold and the flu increase with lower temperatures and cold weather, but scientists have discovered tests that can predict the severity of colds.
And daily brain tests can reveal how prepared your immune system is to deal with a viral infection in the future.
A study by researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) showed that poor immune performance tends to go hand in hand with periods of fluctuating cognitive performance, according to the Science Alert website.
The scientific team from the University of Michigan, Duke University School of Medicine and the University of Virginia say that when a person’s cognitive function begins to fluctuate, a person is likely to be more susceptible to infections and experience more symptoms caused by respiratory viruses. According to results published in the journal Scientific Reports.
During the first three days of the eight-day study, 18 participants tested their attention, reaction time and ability to switch between numbers and symbols, three times a day, using a self-test digital.
On the fourth day of the study, the group was intentionally exposed to human rhinovirus (HRV), which is commonly responsible for the common cold.
During the remaining days, a nasal rinse was administered by the participants to measure the presence and size of excreted viral cells.
The volunteers were also asked to rate their experiences with eight symptoms, including chills, cough, headache, stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and fatigue.
The team concluded that those who spread the most virus and had the worst symptoms tended to show inconsistent cognitive scores in the days leading up to their illness.
“At first, we didn’t find that cognitive function had a significant association with disease susceptibility because we used preliminary results,” says bioinformatics researcher Yaya Chai from the University of Michigan. “But later, when we looked at changes over time, we found that difference in cognitive function is associated with disease.” closely related to immunity and susceptibility.
In other words, a single test may not be enough to determine the state of a person’s immune system. However, the trend in cognitive functioning, as measured over days, could be a predictor of infection.
The study authors acknowledge that most people are unlikely to take a cognitive test three times a day for the rest of their lives. But their results still showed strength even when only five tests were counted – as long as they started three days before infection and at least one test a day.
And in the real world, a person does not know when they will be exposed to a viral infection. This means that for brain tests to predict future immune responses, they will likely be done on a semi-regular basis. But they have yet to determine its regularity.
The current study is small and only suggests a possible link between cognitive function and a healthy immune system. Further research with larger numbers of participants is needed to verify the results.
“I hope there will be an opportunity to confirm these results in a larger, more specific study,” said Ronald Turner, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Virginia, who participated in the trials.
The team is optimistic that smartphone use could eventually help identify periods of heightened susceptibility to disease, by monitoring cognitive indicators such as typing speed and accuracy as well as the amount of time a user go to sleep.
In the past, scientists examining brain function and health relied on raw cognitive scores. But emerging research suggests that the highs and lows of brain tests contain more information than any test alone.
A 19-year-old study, for example, found that when a person’s reaction times show higher variance on tests, that person is more likely to fall, suffer from neurodegenerative disorders, and die.
The authors of the current study hope that one day the public will be able to easily access and track brain tests using their smartphones.
Information about an individual’s handwriting speed, handwriting accuracy and sleep time, for example, can be combined with tests of attention and memory to better predict when they are at increased risk of serious illness.
Precautionary measures can then be taken to reduce their exposure, or to check the body’s defences.
Neuroscientist Murali Duriswamy of Duke University explains, “Traditional clinical cognitive assessments that look at initial outcomes at a given time often don’t provide an accurate picture of brain health. Periodic cognitive monitoring at home, via digital self-testing platforms, is the future of brain health assessment.” .
The study was published in Scientific Reports.
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