COVID-19 Neuroscience project offers insight to COVID-19 risks and impacts

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A study on the neurological and psychiatric impact of COVID-19 infection by the Paris Brain Institute is giving insights into the risks and potential treatments, thanks to funding from the FIA Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund and the FIA.

The unique study focuses on two key aspects; the direct effects of COVID-19 on the central nervous system and the impact of the infection on patients suffering from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.

The project’s initial results, six months after the start of the study, have already identified a notable range of impacts of the disease and factors that impact the severity of COVID-19. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can, it has been established through the study, increase the risk of severe COVID-19. In the way that age and obesity are recognized factors, the severity of neurological disability as a result of MS (the scale of which is known as the EDSS score) is linked to increased COVID-19 risk (requiring at least one hospitalization), although no association was found between treatments for the neurological condition and COVID-19 severity. Brain imaging and the neuroradiology teams have been able to identify several types of brain abnormalities following COVID-19 exposure which provide several potential brain targets for infection. Common features of brain damage visible on imaging may reflect an immune mechanism in response to infection. Cases of movement disorders have also been reported several weeks after intensive care unit discharge, which are being explored as possible direct damage to the central nervous system as well as potentially being an immune response.

Initial findings are helping researchers and clinicians build a better understanding of the neurological and psychiatric manifestations of Covid-19 and to develop new treatments to help patients in the best possible way. The efforts of researchers and clinicians to better characterize the neurological symptoms of patients have led to the development of a new therapeutic approach in intensive care units.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, neurological symptoms were reported by physicians in patients affected by Covid-19, such as loss of smell or taste, but also more serious conditions such as seizures or stroke. The project mobilized the Neuroscience medical-university department of the AP-HP Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital and the Paris Brain Institute and six months into the programme there are more than 500 subjects enrolled in the study.

More work is currently being undertaken on stroke, brain tumor patients, and Parkinson's disease, while further analysis continues. At the same time, follow-up of patients on clinical, cognitive, biological and imaging is underway to build a better understanding of the long-term impacts.

"The FIA Foundation is proud to support this important project, which is already delivering important findings with global significance. The Institute’s cutting-edge research is building a better understanding of the significant long-term effects of the coronavirus on health," commented Saul Billingsley, Executive Director of the FIA Foundation.