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11 May 2020

New study to investigate how COVID-19 infection may impact our thinking

King’s College London researchers are part of a new collaboration to understand the possible impacts of COVID-19 symptoms on how we think, remember, reason, hold attention and learn.

New study to investigate how COVID-19 infection may impact our thinking

The COGENT study aims to gain insight into the possible short-term and long-term effects of COVID-19 symptoms on our cognitive skills, such as memory, attention and recognition of emotions.

Those infected with the COVID-19 virus can experience severe breathing problems which sometimes require patients to be put on ventilators in Intensive Care Units (ICUs). Previous research has indicated that many patients who suffer severe respiratory difficulties whilst on an ICU have cognitive difficulties when they come out of hospital and some are still experiencing these problems many years later, which can be disruptive and distressing.

The research plans to analyse the association between our thinking abilities and the experience of COVID-19 symptoms across the range of illness severity in the UK from milder cases to those who are admitted to ICUs in hospital.

The COGENT study is a collaboration between King’s College London, Imperial College London, University of Cambridge and the University of Chicago and forms part of a wider project, the Great British Well-Being Survey. This builds on an assessment used in the Great British Intelligence Test, a joint project between Imperial College London and the BBC 2 Horizon that gauged the nation’s intelligence and wellbeing, the results of which were aired on a BBC2 Horizon special last week.

The new Great British Well-Being Survey expands on sections on mental health, lifestyle and thought processes and aims to understand the nation’s wellbeing and cognitive faculties before, during and after the pandemic lockdown. The COGENT study will form part of this, assessing the cognitive abilities in the current UK population through a set of online tests and analysing their association with COVID-19 symptoms over time.

What the COGENT study is trying to do is understand the real-world impact of COVID-19 on our thinking skills and which symptoms and what level of severity are associated with cognitive problems over time.

Professor Mitul Mehta from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) King’s College London

He continues, ‘In this current pandemic we know there is an increase in the number of people going to hospital with severe breathing problems and, as the experience of being in ICU is linked to cognitive problems, this may mean we will also have an increase in people with impaired thinking, and for some people, these effects may be long-lasting. If we can find out about the nature of cognitive problems and the links to COVID-19 symptoms we can inform the support and rehabilitation needed for those who have been most affected by difficulties in thinking and memory.’

Alongside the online cognitive assessment, participants will report the results of any tests for COVID-19 infection and any symptoms they have experienced. Anyone over 16 can take part in the study and researchers hope to recruit over 1 million people. More than 80,000 people have completed the survey questionnaire in the first six days since launching.


It is important that as many people engage in the study as possible. Somewhere in the order of 80,000 have already completed our new questionnaire in the first week alone.

Dr Adam Hampshire, Department of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London

The online assessment will include a questionnaire and tests that assess skills such as decision making, remembering, learning, problem solving, verbal skills, reasoning, recognising emotions, and understanding social situations. The tests run on most web browsers and take about 30 minutes to complete. Participants will be invited for follow-up at 3, 6 and 12 months after their first assessment.

Take part in the Great British Wellbeing Survey

Contact: Franca Davenport, Interim Senior Press Officer, IoPPN: / +44 7718 697176