The COVID-19 and mental health: From biological mechanisms to social consequences

In this article, we provide a review of studies investigating the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 on the CNS and mental health outcomes. We describe neurobiology of the virus, highlighting the relevance to mental disorders. Furthermore, this article summarizes the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 from the public health perspective. Finally, we present a critical appraisal of evidence and indicate future directions for studies in this field.

In December 2019, the first case of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19) infection was reported. In only few weeks it has caused a global pandemic, with mortality reaching 3.4%, mostly due to a severe pneumonia. However, the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus on the central nervous system (CNS) and mental health outcomes remains unclear. Previous studies have demonstrated the presence of other types of coronaviruses in the brain, especially in the brainstem. There is evidence that the novel coronavirus can penetrate CNS through the olfactory or circulatory route as well as it can have an indirect impact on the brain by causing cytokine storm. There are also first reports of neurological signs in patients infected by the SARS-Cov-2. They show that COVID-19 patients have neurologic manifestations like acute cerebrovascular disease, conscious disturbance, taste and olfactory disturbances. In addition, there are studies showing that certain psychopathological symptoms might appear in infected patients, including those related to mood and psychotic disorders as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. Accumulating evidence also indicates that the pandemic might have a great impact on mental health from the global perspective, with medical workers being particularly vulnerable.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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