• Olivia Song

The Neurology: COVID-19’s Effects on the Human Brain

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

More than half of COVID-19 patients experience various effects on the brain. Currently, more than 20 institutions are conducting coronavirus related brain research such as imaging, blood testing, and tests on spinal fluid to understand how the coronavirus affects the human brain. Already, coronavirus patients all around the world have experienced brain related conditions such as headaches, unconsciousness, confusion, lack of focus, seizures, strokes, and peripheral nerve issues. While brain research regarding the coronavirus is still taking place, critical care physician and neuroinventist Robert Stevens M.D. of Johns Hopkins University outlines the four effects of coronavirus on the human brain.

  1. Severe Infection - The virus has the scope to enter the brain and cause a severe infection. According to Stevens, the virus is most likely to have entered the brain through the olfactory bulb which is located right above the nose. The olfactory bulb races information about smell to the brain. Cases in Japan, China, and Florida in the US have already reported that they found the virus’s genetic fluid in the spinal fluid and in the bloodstream.

  2. Body Chaos - The common symptoms of the virus are high fevers. Patients with a more severe infection experience organ failure and low oxygen levels. Stevens explains that these symptoms contribute to brain failure, dysfunction, and coma.

  3. Blood Clotting Abnormalities - Coronavirus patients are more likely for blood clots to form in their body. These severe clots can occur anywhere - in body veins, lungs, or thin arteries that are connected to the brain. As a result, severe blood clotting near the brain can cause a stroke in the patient. Strokes are more likely to happen because of the blockage of blood clots in arteries.

  4. Dysfunctional Immune System - When the virus enters an individual’s body, some immune systems may “overdrive” or work harder than usual which causes body inflammation. As a result, an overwork of the immune system causes failure in body tissues and organs.

These four effects of the virus on the brain are crucial because most symptoms of the virus cause the severe brain damage and body dysfunction. As a result, the virus affects the brain no matter what age you are. It is reported that younger patients in their 30s and 40s are experiencing strokes. As outlined above, these strokes in younger patients are caused by the multiple effects of the virus on the brain. However, severe blood clots seems to be the main reason behind the strokes. Furthermore, younger patients are experiencing more brain failure with the virus because their bodies are more biologically active, putting them at a major risk for strokes. It is vital to constantly study the impacts of the coronavirus on the brain in order to help fight the virus.