Friday, April 16, 2021

Lee on Pandemic Brain Fog

Headshot of Dr. Rich Lee
Brain fog, the feeling of sluggish or fuzzy thinking, is a common experience; however, the pandemic may be increasing this experience. With isolation, added interruptions, and the stress of the past year, your ability to focus on and complete tasks can be affected. In a Duluth News Tribune article titled, “Minnesota experts share tips to ease pandemic 'brain fog',” Rich Lee, PhD, Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, states that brain fog is currently not well understood.

Last April, Lee, along with Assistant Professor Rich Douglass and two graduate students in counseling psychology (Vanessa Anyanso and Victoria Wee), began to study the pandemic’s effect on students, staff, and faculty. A sample of 565 people were surveyed on an array of topics from COVID fatigue to COVID's effects on lifestyle to COVID's impacts on mental health. Five waves of data have been collected so far with the most recent from February 2021. After reading news stories about brain fog as a symptom associated with COVID19, they included brain fog questions in the latest survey. Based on preliminary findings, they have found that 10-20% of participants reported regular forgetfulness and lack of mental clarity. However, Lee notes that they do not have pre-pandemic baseline data to compare.

Brain fog can be caused by many things, making it difficult to pinpoint these symptoms based on living through a pandemic. To counteract brain fog, Lee recommends good sleep and nutrition, exercise, and increased emotional and social support systems.

Composed by Flora Pollack, communications assistant.