THE GLOBE AND MAIL | How does COVID-19 affect the nervous system? Canadian and international scientists want to find out

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Published: 13Aug2020

Canadian and international scientists are joining forces to promote research into how COVID-19 affects the central nervous system, as they strive to understand whether and how the new coronavirus and other respiratory viruses could lead to lasting brain damage. Brought together as part of a new initiative called VINEx, created by Rocket Science Health, a Victoria-based medical devices company, the group is aiming to lead the charge in understanding how viruses invade the brain – an area of study that has received relatively little attention.

Marc Desforges, a specialist in the virology lab at CHU Sainte-Justine, the pediatric hospital centre affiliated with the University of Montreal, is among the researchers VINEx recruited to its science advisory council. Others include renowned neuroscientist Adrian Owen, a professor of cognitive neuroscience and imaging at the University of Western Ontario, and special advisors Alan Evans, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at McGill University and this year’s recipient of the prestigious Killam Prize, and Avindra Nath, clinical director of the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

McGill, Dr. Evans said researchers still need to answer many basic questions, including whether the new coronavirus gets into the brain in the first place. “We need a large-scale characterization of what COVID is doing. Does it get into the brain? If so, how?”

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