Before the pandemic, psychiatrist Josh Cohen’s patients might come into his consulting room, sit down on the couch, talk about the weather or the traffic, or the mean person on the street. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, they appear on his laptop screen and tell him about brain fog.
They talk with the concern of feeling unable to focus in meetings, follow complex television programmes, and read. “There’s this sense of weakening, of losing general facility with everyday life; a kind of deskilling and a forgetfulness,” says Josh, writer of the book ‘How To Live’.
However, restrictions are now easing across the United Kingdom or the world in general, with more freedom to socialise and circulate; he says curfew for many of us has been “a diminution of life, and an almost parallel diminution of mental health.”
This useless, dulled state of mind- represented by the act of going out of the house and then forgetting why they left the house- is so lifeless, so dull. Experts believe it is far more fascinating than it feels: even though groundbreaking neuroscience theories can describe this collective experience, studying it further could increase scientific understanding of the brain and how it alters.
The Guardian asked a professor of cognitive neuroscience, Jon Simons, could it be something “scientific”? “Yes, it’s particularly something scientific- and it’s pleasant to understand that this feeling isn’t weird or unusual,” he says. “There isn’t anything wrong with us. It’s a normal reaction to this quite dark experience we’ve all had over the last year or so.”
Professor of neuroscience at the University of Westminster, Catherine Loveday, calls poor “cognitive function” to brain fog. That covers “all from our attention, our memory, and our ability to solve a problem or our ability to be creative.
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