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The Flu Can Impair Your Brain



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That week of misery you spent suffering from the flu might not just leave you with bad memories of fever, chills, and coughing—it could actually leave you with a bad memory! According to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the virus could have a long-lasting effect on your brain, leaving your memory impaired for months.

In the study, mice were infected with a strain of the flu, then put through a maze. They were tested four times over a six-month period, and for at least two months, they took far longer than expected to get through the maze.

This isn’t the first time that scientists have found evidence of an infection causing brain inflammation. Richard Smeyne, PhD, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, has been studying a potential link between viruses and Parkinson’s disease for years.

“Any virus that gets into the brain becomes much more worrisome in terms of later effects,” Smeyne says. However, he also says that intervention might help. “In animal studies, mice that were vaccinated against the flu didn’t have this kind of immune response in their brains if they did get the virus. That might mean that getting a flu shot might be even more important than we realize. You may still get the flu, but it might protect you against this kind of longer-term inflammation.”