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The negative impact of COVID-19 on working memory revealed using a rapid online quiz

Baseler, Heidi A.; Aksoy, Murat; Salawu, Abayomi; Green, Angela; Asghar, Aziz U.R.


Heidi A. Baseler

Murat Aksoy

Abayomi Salawu

Angela Green

Aziz U.R. Asghar


Although coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) affects the respiratory system, it can also have neurological consequences leading to cognitive deficits such as memory problems. The aim of our study was to assess the impact of COVID-19 on working memory function. We developed and implemented an online anonymous survey with a working memory quiz incorporating aspects of gamification to engage participants. 5428 participants successfully completed the survey and memory quiz between 8th December 2020 and 5th July 2021 (68.6% non-COVID-19 and 31.4% COVID-19). Most participants (93.3%) completed the survey and memory quiz relatively rapidly (mean time of 8.84 minutes). Categorical regression was used to assess the contribution of COVID status, age, time post-COVID (number of months elapsed since having had COVID), symptoms, ongoing symptoms and gender, followed by non-parametric statistics. A principal component analysis explored the relationship between subjective ratings and objective memory scores. The objective memory scores were significantly correlated with participants' own assessment of their cognitive function. The factors significantly affecting memory scores were COVID status, age, time post-COVID and ongoing symptoms. Our main finding was a significant reduction in memory scores in all COVID groups (self-reported, positive-tested and hospitalized) compared to the non-COVID group. Memory scores for all COVID groups combined were significantly reduced compared to the non-COVID group in every age category 25 years and over, but not for the youngest age category (18-24 years old). We found that memory scores gradually increased over a period of 17 months post-COVID-19. However, those with ongoing COVID-19 symptoms continued to show a reduction in memory scores. Our findings demonstrate that COVID-19 negatively impacts working memory function, but only in adults aged 25 years and over. Moreover, our results suggest that working memory deficits with COVID-19 can recover over time, although impairments may persist in those with ongoing symptoms.


Baseler, H. A., Aksoy, M., Salawu, A., Green, A., & Asghar, A. U. (2022). The negative impact of COVID-19 on working memory revealed using a rapid online quiz. PLoS ONE, 17(11), Article e0269353.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 18, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 14, 2022
Publication Date Nov 14, 2022
Deposit Date Nov 28, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 28, 2022
Journal PloS one
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 11
Article Number e0269353
Public URL


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Copyright Statement
Copyright: © 2022 Baseler et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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