GSU researchers combine with others in China to study how COVID-19 impacts the brain

ATLANTA — Deep into the pandemic, work is being done to see how COVID-19 affects different areas of the body.

Researchers at Georgia State University have collaborated with colleagues in China to find out how COVID-19 affects the brain.

One researcher told Channel 2′s Wendy Corona that they’ve learned the impacts can be traumatic.

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“You really don’t want to get COVID, is ultimately one of the messages that this is supporting,” said Vince Calhoun, director of GSU’s Translational Research in Neuroimaging and Data Science Center.

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Alongside colleagues in Wuhan, China, they’re analyzing functional MRI data to see brain dynamics in two groups: those who survived COVID-19 and those who never got it.

“We’re evaluating differences in their brain fluctuations. We’re also looking at the relationship to post-traumatic stress symptoms,” Calhoun said.

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In fact, COVID-19 survivors in the study showed higher levels of stress symptoms that include anxiety, depression, PTSD and a relationship in certain brain patterns.

“Basically, the efficiency with which brain regions are connected is different. Sort of lower in the COVID group than in the non-COVID group,” Calhoun said.

This study shows COVID-19′s reach goes beyond the lungs. Brain patterns in COVID-19 survivors are indeed different.

“There’s a particular pattern that involves somatosensory and visual areas as well as some higher cognitive areas,” Calhoun said.

This is a frequent find in COVID-19 survivors, which begs for more research.

Calhoun said the study and others show COVID-19 does impact the brain.

Researchers want to learn if this is persistent in the brain or whether it is something that fades with time.

Calhoun told Corona the study is just the start with many more angles to study in the pipeline.