Sat. May 21st, 2022

COVID-19 brain neurological cognitive impairment

SARS-CoV-2 was originally identified as a respiratory virus, but it can affect the entire body, including the nervous system. In a new point of view published in Science, Avindra Nath, MD, clinical director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and Serena Spudich, MD, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, highlight what is currently known about the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on the brain, the importance of increased research into the underlying causes of Long Covid and possible ways to treat its symptoms.

Neurological symptoms that have been reported with acute COVID-19 includes loss of taste and smell, headache, stroke, delirium and encephalitis. There does not appear to be extensive infection of brain cells with the virus, but the neurological effects may be caused by immune activation, neuroinflammation, and damage to the blood vessels of the brain.

Acute COVID-19 infection can sometimes lead to long-term effects that have been collectively called “Long Covid”, and can include a wide range of symptoms in the brain and nervous system, ranging from loss of taste and smell, decreased concentration, fatigue , pain, sleep disorders, autonomic disorders and / or headaches for psychological effects such as depression or psychosis.

Drs. Nath and Spudich outline the current scientific understanding of the potential body reactions to acute COVID-19 infection and how these reactions can lead to prolonged Covid symptoms. They also draw parallels between the symptoms experienced by people with long covid and those living with myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME / CFS) or post-lyme disease, suggesting that common risk factors may be involved.

Finally, due to the significant variation in symptoms from person to person and the fact that many individuals with Long Covid were healthy before a relatively mild COVID-19 infection, the authors highlight the urgent need for significant research efforts to identify the full extent of Long Covid complications and their causes. This type of research, which will include a careful study of individuals with long covid categorized according to their specific symptoms, is crucial for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools to identify and treat what is becoming an ever-increasing public health problem. The NIH RECOVER COVID initiative is an ambitious research program to achieve these goals.

Reference: “Consequences of the nervous system by COVID-19” by Serena Spudich and Avindra Nath, 20 January 2022, Science.
DOI: 10.1126 / science.abm2052

NINDS is the country’s leading funder of research into the brain and nervous system. NINDS ‘mission is to seek basic knowledge about the brain and nervous system and use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological diseases.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 institutes and centers and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research and investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

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