Researchers at the University of Birmingham and the University of Amsterdam have linked inflammation in the body with brain fog. Reason being? The area of the brain this condition tends to weaken is the same part that alters how alert we are.
For the study, a group of young men were given a salmonella typhoid vaccine known to cause temporary inflammation. Several hours later, they were put through a series of cognitive tests and their brain activity was measured.
On a separate occasion, participants were given a placebo (an injection filled with water) before submitting to a second round of cognitive testing. Interestingly, the attention spans of those who received the vaccine were compromised, while those who received the placebo remained unaffected.
"Scientists have long suspected a link between inflammation and cognition, but it is very difficult to be clear about the cause and effect," Dr Ali Mazaheri, a senior author of the study explained. "For example, people living with a medical condition or being very overweight might complain of cognitive impairment, but it's hard to tell if that's due to the inflammation associated with this condition or if there are other reasons.”
"These results show quite clearly that there's a very specific part of the brain network that's affected by inflammation," Mazaheri continued. "This could explain 'brain fog.'"
Another senior author of the study, Professor Jane Raymond, added: "This research finding is major step forward in understanding the links between physical, cognitive, and mental health and tells us that even the mildest of illnesses may reduce alertness."