Daily brain tests might reveal how prepared your immune system is to cope with a future viral infection.
A study by researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) discovered that poor immune performance is likely to coincide with periods of fluctuating cognitive performance.
For the first couple of days of the 8 day study, 3 times each day, 18 participants tested their attention, reaction time, and ability to switch between numbers and symbols. The researchers exposed the group to human rhinovirus (HRV), the virus that causes the common cold, on the 4th day of the study.
A nose wash was self-administered throughout the course of the other days to measure the presence and amount of dropping viral cells.
The survey asked volunteers to evaluate their experience with 8 symptoms: chills, cough, headache, nasal obstruction, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, exhaustion, and so forth.
Ultimately, those who had the most virus and had the worst symptoms tended to show inconsistent cognitive scores in the days leading up to their illness.
“In the first, we did not find that cognitive function had a substantial association with illness susceptibility since we made use of the raw scores,” says Yaya Zhai, a bioinformatics researcher at U-M.
“However, when we examined change over time, we discovered that variation in cognitive function is directly associated with immunity and susceptibility.”
Put simply, a one- time test is most likely not enough to determine the usefulness of an individual’s immune system. Nevertheless, a pattern of cognitive performance measured over days might be the solution.
The researchers say they are unlikely to find individuals who take cognitive tests three times each day for the rest of their lives. Their results showed strength even when only 5 tests were accounted for, so long as the assessments were taken 3 days prior to infection and at least one test were taken a day.
In the real world, nobody knows when they are going to be next exposed to a virus. That means that brain tests to predict future immune responses might have to be taken semi-regularly. How regular remains to be determined.
The current study is modest and just suggests a possible link between cognitive function and a healthy immune system. In order to verify the results, additional research is required in bigger cohorts.
Experts who have investigated brain performance and health before depended on raw cognitive scores. New research indicates the ups as well as downs of brain testing might hold more information than any one test can.
A remarkable 19-year-long study, as an example, discovered that when someone’s response times display greater variability on tests, that person is at a greater risk of falls, neurodegenerative problems, and death.
The authors of the present study hope that eventually, brain tests can be accessed as well as monitored by the public through their own smartphones.
For instance, information on a person’s typing speed, accuracy, and sleep time might be coupled with measures of memory and attention to anticipate when they’re at increased risk of severe illness.
After that protective steps might be taken in order to lessen their exposure or even to improve their bodies ‘defenses.
“Conventional medical cognitive assessments which look at raw scores in one time point frequently don’t offer a real picture of brain health,” says Duke University neuroscientist P. Murali Doraiswamy.
“periodic cognitive monitoring from home through self-test electronic platforms will be the potential future of brain health assessment,” she said.
The study was published in Scientific Reports.