What is brain fog? Ryan Siew’s cause of death explored, as Polaris guitarist dies aged 26

Ryan Siew suffered from depression and brain fog prior to his untimely demise. (Image via Instagram/ryan_siew)
Ryan Siew suffered from depression and brain fog prior to his untimely demise. (Image via Instagram/ryan_siew)

Ryan Siew, the lead guitarist for the emerging Australian metalcore band Polaris died on June 19, 2023. He was 26 years old at the time of death. The band, which is popular for exploring depression, loss, and other mental health issues through their music, announced the sad news on their Instagram handle on June 27.

While the post did not mention the exact cause of death, fans are speculating that it has something to do with depression and brain fog. In fact, in January, Ryan Siew took to Instagram to share his struggles with the same:

"I’ve had to step away and spend most of 2023 working on myself and for the first time for as long as I can remember, I’m happy to say I’m no longer on any anti depressants, no longer living with the constant brain fog and lethargy."

For those unaware, brain fog is defined as a state where memory and cognition aren’t as efficient or effective as they used to be.

Brain fog was coined from the term "brain fag" in 1850

Telling signs of brain fog include a hampered ability to think clearly. Even memorizing something feels sluggish and fuzzy. Simply put, it refers to a temporary sensation of decreased mental function.

Experts believe that brain fog is likely as ancient as human intelligence. However, it came to limelight in the post Covid-19 world, where survivors started noticing a lingering brain fog as one of the commonest side effects of the virus. To top it all off, the recent emergence of burnout culture among the younger generation has also been linked with brain fog.

The term “brain fog” is presumed to have derived from the preexisting expression “brain fag.” It was coined by British physician James Tunstall in 1850, who used it to describe the psychological exhaustion that “brain workers” such as lawyers, doctors, writers, teachers, and students experienced as a result of over-studying and too much thinking.

The symptoms included concentration difficulty, mild forgetfulness, and a challenge in maintaining a particular train of thought.


Fast forward to the 1960s, the expression “brain fag syndrome” was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-4 and primarily referred to “excessive academic strain.” In today’s world, however, the term has been upgraded to “brain fog” and is used to define the medical condition arising out of burnout and overwork.

Now, it has come to refer to struggling with attention, concentration, learning, and short-term memory. In addition, one may find it hard to multitask, understand certain concepts, and memorize them. People may also feel like living in a constant trance-like state, with easy distraction, dissociation, fatigue, and excessive cognitive effort.


Some of the common causes of brain fog include hormonal changes, diet challenges, Covid-19 and similar viral infections, chemotherapy, side effects of heavy-doze medicines, and terminal disorders like diabetes and hypertension.

However, brain fog can be controlled by implementing certain lifestyle changes such as improving the sleep cycle, regular exercise, taking frequent breaks, managing stress, and consuming lesser amounts of caffeine and alcohol.


Ryan Siew debuted with Polaris in 2017

Ryan Siew began his career as a guitarist in 2008. He debuted with the Sydney-based Polaris in 2017 with the album, The Mortal Coil, which earned them the ARIA Award 2018 nomination for “Best Hard Rock.”

Their second album was released in February 2020 and was called The Death of Me. It earned the second ARIA Award nomination, alongside winning the Best Album at Rolling Stone Australia Awards in 2021. Their upcoming album, Fatalism, is scheduled to release in September 2023.

Besides Ryan Siew, the band comprises vocalist Jamie Hails, guitarist Rick Schneider, bassist Jake Steinhauser, and drummer Daniel Furnari.

Following Siew’s untimely demise, Polaris announced the cancelation of their ongoing European Summer Tour.

Say goodbye to a fan-favorite show HERE

Edited by Upasya Bhowal