about us

An interdisciplinary team of researchers

Researchers from the Graham NeuroImaging Lab at Sunnybrook Research Institute and the KL-CARE group at Rotman Research Institute are investigating differences in brain regions in those with Long Haul COVID-19. Both institutions are based in Toronto, Ontario. We have assembled a diverse team of scientists and clinician researchers to undertake this highly novel study, taking advantage of longstanding interactions between the research institutes at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Baycrest and St. Michael’s Hospital. Our team's primary areas of expertise span across MRI neuroimaging science, neuroinformatics, cognitive neuroscience, behavioural assessments, neurology and front-line critical care, ensuring a comprehensive approach to to investigate not only behavioural impairments, but also changes in brain anatomy and physiological functions of COVID-19 patients.

There are two groups of participants in this study: Group 1 are people that tested positive for COVID-19, while Group 2 are people who were negative (that is, control participants). Regardless of their COVID-19 test results, all participants will have the same assessments. We invite all participants to return for follow-up sessions involving the same tests, after 3 months, and for a third final visit that may occur 1-1.5 years after the first visit. This is to assess whether observed behavioural or brain changes resolve 3 months after the initial behavioural and MRI tests, as this is a typical period for recovery from moderate brain damage. This also helps assess any brain changes that occur across a longer time scale, up to 2.5 years after the initial behavioural and MRI tests.

In each study visit, participants will complete assessments, including an EEG assessment which measures the brain electrical signals, an MRI scan that takes about 1-1.5 hours, vision and smell tests, cognitive/thinking tasks and questionnaires about mood and emotional well-being. In addition, participants will be given the option to provide a blood sample. Blood analysis will include markers in blood that can provide a sign of disease severity and may be used for future research.  


Summary of Research Progress

  • We have recently been published in Frontiers in Neurology for our paper entitled "Effects of post-acute COVID-19 syndrome on the functional brain networks of non-hospitalized individuals" This paper compared the brain function and symptoms of individuals who had COVID-19 with those who had flu-like symptoms but never had COVID-19. Our findings revealed that the COVID-19 group had a higher likelihood of experiencing ongoing headaches and reduced connections between various brain regions.
  • We have also been published in a paper titled "MRI Assessment of Cerebral Blood Flow in Non-hospitalized Adults Who Self-Isolated Due to COVID-19" in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This paper looked at blood flow in the brain for those who contracted COVID-19 versus those who contracted another flu-like illness. COVID-19 infected individuals had reduced blood flow in certain brain regions; particularly in areas that help process the sense of smell, and facilitate reward-related behavior and emotional and cognitive functioning.

latest publications

Effects of post-acute COVID-19 syndrome on the functional brain networks of non-hospitalized individuals
MRI Assessment of Cerebral Blood Flow in Non-hospitalized Adults Who Self-Isolated Due to COVID-19

Recruitment Progress

So far, the study has enrolled 43 participants who did not have COVID-19, i.e. our control group, 86 who had COVID-19 and isolated at home, and 11 participants who had COVID-19 and were hospitalized. Recruitment is ongoing!
Across both Sunnybrook and Baycrest sites, 139 people have enrolled in the study and completed their initial visit. 101 participants have completed their second visit (3 month follow up) across Sunnybrook and Baycrest sites. Lastly, 32 people have completed all three study visits, with more participants on the way to completing their NeuroCOVID journey.