Prof Monica Di Luca, President, European Brain Council, highlights the importance of continuous prioritisation and attention to brain research during the COVID-19 pandemic

The year 2020 seemingly started like any other, but has quickly evolved into a test for a global society, as the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, came, as if overnight, in full force. In Europe, in particular, everyday life was brought to a halt as the disease spread like wildfire across the continent, pushing healthcare systems to their limits and paralysing economies throughout the European Union (EU) Member States and beyond.

The brain community as a whole has watched the pandemic unfold from an uncomfortable distance, not directly involved but progressively affected. Society has seen a worrying increase in mental health issues and chronic illnesses face de-prioritisation in the face of this emergency. It is becoming clearer to the community as the pandemic rages on that the danger COVID-19 poses on vulnerable societies — like those living with brain conditions and other pre-existing conditions — is undeniable. Researchers and physicians note growing evidence of not only the threats of COVID-19 to patients but also the direct neurological impact the virus has started manifesting, with physicians working to better understand how exactly COVID-19 has affected their patients. 

The brain research community, in particular, has seen their daily work and lives shift significantly. Many are severely affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe as well as by the containment measures introduced by many EU countries. In April, multiple calls to the European Commission were launched – including by the European Brain Council (EBC) – to ask the European Commission to postpone deadlines for Horizon 2020 calls, as the containment measures hindered researchers in their efforts to collaborate with partners in other EU-countries, travel across Europe, organise meetings, gather relevant experts and conduct their research or prepare their project proposals as normal. Furthermore, medical societies are calling for support for medical and research societies to ensure continued guidance for healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 Pandemic, specifically since the medical and research societies that health professionals rely on for up-to-date information on clinical practice are facing serious challenges during this time.

 

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