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  • Writer's pictureBernard McMahon

Our brain is quite a useful item of PPE

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Good cognitive fitness supports our mental health and helps our immunity against viral infections

Our mental resilience (cognitive fitness) has never been more important than during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and here are some of the scientific reasons why.

Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory hormone, responsible for combatting stress, and is part of how our immune system responds to the stress of an infection. Cortisol plays an important role in regulating cytokines.

Cytokines are pro-inflammatory proteins mobilised in response to stress. And whilst there are 'good' cytokines that our bodies need, there are also 'bad' ones that can cause damaging inflammatory events. For example when the epithelial lining of the lungs becoming inflamed, weakening them and enabling severe forms of infection.

The regulatory activity of cortisol depends on the strength of our mental resilience or cognition. With poor cognition, even low levels of stress can lead to poor immunity. Whilst with good cognition, cortisol regulates the cytokines, mental health is maintained and there is greater immunity even during high levels of stress.

So we know that when cognition deteriorates, the risk and severity of an infection increases. At its most severe this could even result in death triggered by a 'cytokine storm' deep in the lung and, filling the air sacks with inflammatory material resulting in pneumonia. Something we are all too familiar with when watching regular news updates during this current pandemic.

People who are most at risk include: those with long-term, autoimmune illnesses, people subjected to short-term but extreme stress, e.g. medical staff working long, demanding hours, and people subjected to new stressful conditions.

In prolonged stress, or when stress is acute but extreme, cognition is impaired and the regulation of cytokines via cortisol is compromised. The immune system deteriorates, leading to greater risk of both infection and mental illness.

These scientific facts are all well and good but you might be wondering how, exactly, can we do anything to improve our mental resilience. Well, one proven way to do this is through the MyCognition platform that is part of the Beingwell Family.

MyCognition is NHS approved and CE Marked as a medical device. Everyone (all ages, genders, and health states), including front line medical staff, can use the digitally delivered platform to self-assess their cognition and understand the level of risk to poor mental health and infection. The platform also allows members to self-train to improve their cognition, reducing risks of poor mental health and infection.

Learn more about the MyCognition here.

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