What SARS-CoV-2 does to our brains

Immunity. 2022 Jul 12;55(7):1159-1172. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2022.06.013. Epub 2022 Jun 20.


Neurological symptoms in SARS-CoV-2-infected patients have been reported, but their cause remains unclear. In theory, the neurological symptoms observed after SARS-CoV-2 infection could be (1) directly caused by the virus infecting brain cells, (2) indirectly by our body's local or systemic immune response toward the virus, (3) by coincidental phenomena, or (4) a combination of these factors. As indisputable evidence of intact and replicating SARS-CoV-2 particles in the central nervous system (CNS) is currently lacking, we suggest focusing on the host's immune reaction when trying to understand the neurocognitive symptoms associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. In this perspective, we discuss the possible immune-mediated mechanisms causing functional or structural CNS alterations during acute infection as well as in the post-infectious context. We also review the available literature on CNS affection in the context of COVID-19 infection, as well as observations from animal studies on the molecular pathways involved in sickness behavior.

Keywords: Neuroimmunology; SARS-CoV-2; neurotropism; sickness behaviour.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain
  • COVID-19*
  • Central Nervous System
  • SARS-CoV-2*