My experience having covid wasn’t bad at all and I feel like I have no lasting effects, but all of the recent articles about how covid affects one’s brain long-term made me wonder whether or not it affected me. Maybe I had become dumber, but didn’t realize it!
As I thought about ways that I could verify this, it occured to me that my cousin and I send each other our crossword scores nearly every single day. Because of how much sleep affects my ability to complete crosswords, I figured it might be a good proxy for mental ability.
First, I downloaded a program to extract all of my text messages into a readable data format. I then made a simple program to go through every message and extract the time (mm:ss) if there was one in the message. Using the timestamp of when it was sent, I tried to guess which day the crossword was for (the next day’s crosswords come out at 7pm on most days and 5pm on Sundays and Mondays), and I created a csv with that series.
I had data from October 2019 until April 2022. I’m not sure what happened to the older text messages, but I figured that would be good enough data.
I got covid on 9/10/2021, and as you can see from the graph above, it seems that my crossword performance did not suffer. In fact, my best average times ever were about 3 months later.
My time trends have been going up recently, which could mean that there was some sort of delayed effect, but I think it coincides pretty exactly with when I became more interested in Wordle, Quordle, Octordle, and Sedecordle. That led to me doing crosswords much later in the day, rather than when they first come out.
If I were better at data analysis, I would adjust scores based on time of day and might also break them down by day of week. Monday through Wednesday are probably more about mental quickness, Thursday through Sunday are more about reasoning.
When we first started doing crosswords, I would beat my cousin almost every day. After a few months she began to beat me on the monday through wednesdays, but I still won on the later days. Now she wins almost every single day. I probably haven’t won in months, and when I do win it’s by some tiny amount of time. She routinely beats me by several minutes!
I couldn’t help but also analyze her times, and sure enough her average time is 6:53 seconds and mine is 9:14. She’s beating me by over two minutes a day, which is pretty amazing when you consider than an average Monday time is about 3 minutes.
While I couldn’t detect any covid related brain damage, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened. One paper said that people who had covid had lost brain matter in the areas related to taste and smell. I believe I can taste and smell as well as ever, but it’s possible that I just can’t remember what it used to be like. I also wouldn’t be surprised if drinking tea mindfully every day has helped me preserve those senses.
Either way, it was fun to realize I had a way to figure out if I had become dumber due to covid and to go down the rabbit hole to actually analyze the data. If my brain was damaged, I’m glad it’s not the crossword part. I’m already too far behind my cousin!
Photo is from Munich, where I laid over for a day on the way to Budapest. I came here for a couple days to fix some banking issues… only to realize that they celebrate Easter on Monday (my last day here), so I may have come for nothing. At least I’ll get to go to an opera!