Researchers looking for COVID-19 patients for brain study

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A team of researchers from Western University and the University of Toronto is looking to recruit COVID-19 survivors to examine whether the virus has any long-term effects on the brain.

Roughly 50,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19 are needed for the study.

While most of the scientific work being done around the virus has overwhelmingly focused on diagnosis, contact tracing, containment, and supportive care, this study will zero in on neurological and longer-term effects.

“We can’t start looking at this issue in a year’s time because if there are cognitive impairments, and we know there will be, it’s going to be too late,” Adrian Owen, a cognitive neuroscience and imaging professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, said in a statement. “A year from now, we will have more than eight million people worldwide recovering from COVID-19. So, we may also have eight million people with short- and long-term cognitive problems.”

Through the study, researchers will try to answer whether COVID-19 can result in significant cognitive impairment and whether gender, age, or medical risk factors can have a greater effect on an infected patient.

Of particular interest to scientists is the unprecedented spike in demand the pandemic has had on intensive care units (ICU). A study published last year by Owen and his team showed patients can suffer a wide range of physical, functional, and neuropsychological issues following their release from ICU.

“ICU survivors are vulnerable to cognitive impairment. So, as the number of recovered COVID-19 patients continues to climb, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that getting sent home from the ICU is not the end for these people. It’s just the beginning of their recovery,” Owen added.

He has partnered with Dr. Rick Swartz, a stroke neurologist and cognitive scientist from Sunnybrook and the University of Toronto, for the study. The pair have worked together on multiple research studies since 2011.

Anyone interested in participating in the study can do so by clicking here.