Molecular imaging reveals the effects of COVID-19 on the brain – ScienceDaily
Molecular imaging reveals the effects of COVID-19 on the brain – ScienceDaily

Molecular imaging reveals the effects of COVID-19 on the brain – ScienceDaily

A significant number of COVID-19 neurological complications – such as fatigue, headaches and cognitive impairment – are ultimately reversible, according to new research summarized by Journal of Nuclear Medicine. The extensive literature review of molecular imaging findings sheds light on how COVID-19 affects the brain and identifies important implications for other neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.

Neurological symptoms are present in approximately two-thirds of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Symptoms include fatigue, loss of smell, attention problems and memory loss. Patients who have more severe COVID-19 cases, are elderly, or have pre-existing conditions are more likely to experience these neurological problems.

Molecular imaging with PET or SPECT has been used to determine how COVID-19 affects the brain; however, these scans often show conflicting results. To make sense of the data, researchers conducted a comprehensive, systematic, and critical review of molecular imaging studies in neuropsychiatric COVID-19 cases.

Their report was structured according to neurological symptoms and how they developed over time. The five symptoms included in the report were encephalitis, Parkinsonism and other neurodegenerative diseases, focal symptoms / lesions, encephalopathy and post-COVID-19 syndrome. This helped the researchers understand potential underlying (and most likely different) causes of the symptoms and to uncover discrepancies in the PET and SPECT literature.

“The studies presented are of great importance to patients struggling with neurological or cognitive repercussions of COVID-19,” said Philipp T. Meyer, MD, PhD, Head of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the Medical Center-University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany. “As far as we know, there are no convincing studies that clearly show relevant and irreversible brain damage, apart from disease complications such as cerebral infarctions and bleeding. From our perspective, there is thus in the vast majority of cases no reason to assume that reported impairment will be permanent. and do not respond to treatment. “

What are the implications of this research for the future of molecular imaging of COVID-19 neurological symptoms? First, there is a clear need for further well-planned studies. “These should be prospective, recruit larger patient cohorts, follow accepted syndrome or stage definitions, and use proper methodology,” noted Jonas A. Hosp, MD, MD at the Department of Neurology and Clinical Neuroscience at the Medical Center-University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany. “Carefully designed studies of COVID-19 populations will be of great interest in the future.”

Second, there are several potential clinical applications of molecular imaging in COVID-19 patients with cognitive or neurological impairment. “It may be the case that COVID-19 detected or accelerated a pre-existing neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s,” Meyer said. “Molecular imaging could be used to identify these patients.”

This study was made available online in February 2022.

The authors of “Molecular imaging findings on acute and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain: A systematic review” include Philipp T. Meyer and Ganna Blazhenets, Department of Nuclear Medicine, Medical Center-University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany; Sabine Hellwig, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical Center-University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany; and Jonas A. Hosp, Department of Neurology and Clinical Neuroscience, Medical Center-University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.

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