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COVID-19: scientists launch security measures for neuroscience research

15 may
Jorge Almeida
Jorge Almeida
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A group of 41 scientists from 20 countries, including the Portuguese researcher Jorge Almeida, from the Proaction Lab of the University of Coimbra (UC), have developed a guide to make it possible to quickly and safely reestablish research and clinical activities related to neuroscience and the use of neuronal stimulation techniques, currently very limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This guide, published in the journal Brain Stimulation, one of the most reknowned scientific journals in the field of neuroscience, aims essentially to help the scientific and medical community to adapt in order to gradually continue the studies and treatments that have suddenly been unfeasible.

The main goal is to respond to the sudden restrictions caused by the pandemic that resulted in the interruption and delays in scientific activity, “namely in neuroscience studies, with the interruption of recruitment and testing of participants, and with the interruption of clinical trials and treatments. These studies use specific procedures, such as the use of non-invasive neuronal stimulation, a set of safe stimulation techniques used to modulate brain activity”, explains Jorge Almeida.

According to Jorge Almeida, the neuronal stimulation techniques "have been used both in basic and applied research in neuroscience, as well as in therapies for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological diseases, which is why their maintenance is of great importance".

This guide was created according to a survey carried out in 17 countries, to 29 institutions that use non-invasive neuronal stimulation techniques, and i tis a guide that discusses the practices that must be implemented in the current situation to keep these activities in operation, but also indicates how to proceed in case of possible future epidemics or pandemics.

The proposed guidelines - based on three phases: initial impact of COVID-19, current practices and future preparation - include a list of 12 steps that suggest “reducing unnecessary contact by removing or simplifying protocols and incorporating telemedicine. We also recommend social distancing, extra care in the sterilization of the equipment used and we also list more specific considerations for populations covered by these experiences and therapies” summarizes the professor of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the UC.

According to the authors of the published scientific paper, one of the growing concerns of the scientific community “has been the possible increase in mental illness due to the unforeseen impact of the pandemic, as well as the prioritization of the treatment of the virus, to the detriment of other illnesses, due to the sudden need of hospitals and clinics’ reorganisation. It is known that there are patients from neurological and psychiatric departments whose treatments may have been reduced and / or postponed”. Therefore, the implementation of the guidelines proposed by this group of scientists becomes even more crucial to address these emerging situations.

"In addition to allowing the development of knowledge about different types of neuropsychiatric diseases, stimulation techniques are important for basic brain and mind research", says Jorge Almeida, who concludes, "by maintaining the functioning of research laboratories", research and clinical infrastructures that use these techniques, we hope to relieve, in the short and long term, the psychological effects caused by the pandemic ”. The scientific paper is available: here.

Original news article in Portuguese: Cristina Pinto