Coronaviruses: a challenge of today and a call for extended human postmortem brain analyses

Peter Riederer*, Volker ter Meulen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


While there is abounding literature on virus-induced pathology in general and coronavirus in particular, recent evidence accumulates showing distinct and deleterious brain affection. As the respiratory tract connects to the brain without protection of the blood–brain barrier, SARS-CoV-2 might in the early invasive phase attack the cardiorespiratory centres located in the medulla/pons areas, giving rise to disturbances of respiration and cardiac problems. Furthermore, brainstem regions are at risk to lose their functional integrity. Therefore, long-term neurological as well as psychiatric symptomatology and eventual respective disorders cannot be excluded as evidenced from influenza-A triggered post-encephalitic Parkinsonism and HIV-1 triggered AIDS–dementia complex. From the available evidences for coronavirus-induced brain pathology, this review concludes a number of unmet needs for further research strategies like human postmortem brain analyses. SARS-CoV-2 mirroring experimental animal brain studies, characterization of time-dependent and region-dependent spreading behaviours of coronaviruses, enlightening of pathological mechanisms after coronavirus infection using long-term animal models and clinical observations of patients having had COVID-19 infection are calling to develop both protective strategies and drug discoveries to avoid early and late coronavirus-induced functional brain disturbances, symptoms and eventually disorders. To fight SARS-CoV-2, it is an urgent need to enforce clinical, molecular biological, neurochemical and genetic research including brain-related studies on a worldwide harmonized basis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1217-1228
Publication statusPublished - 1. Sep 2020


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Brain bank
  • Brain pathology
  • Brain stem
  • Cardiorespiratory centre
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Depression
  • Movement disorders
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuroinvasion
  • Neurological symptoms/disorders
  • Neuroprotection
  • Parkinsonism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Postmortem studies
  • SARS-CoV-2 brain disorders
  • Therapy


Dive into the research topics of 'Coronaviruses: a challenge of today and a call for extended human postmortem brain analyses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this