Understanding COVID-19

May 11, 2020

Understanding COVID-19


Tristan Davies | Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. Source: NIAID


When the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus emerged as a global threat in early 2020, numerous investigators in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Building 46 quickly turned their attention to uderstanding the virus and its effects. From novel test methods to organismal and social effects of COVID-19 infection, these investigators are making vital contributions. This page includes links to BCS, MIT, and selected media items about this work.

Signs of Covid-19 may be hidden in speech signals

Researchers from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the McGovern Institute, and Harvard are detecting these changes in Covid-19 patients even when these changes are too subtle for people to hear or even notice in themselves. Preliminary results hint that biomarkers derived from vocal system coordination can indicate the presence of Covid-19. The researchers note that it's still early to draw definitive conclusions. They’re working now with a publicly released dataset from Carnegie Mellon University that contains audio samples from individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19.

Our itch to share helps spread Covid-19 misinformation

When people are consuming news on social media, their inclination to share that news with others interferes with their ability to assess its accuracy. The study presented the same false news headlines about Covid-19 to two groups of people: One group was asked if they would share those stories on social media, and the other evaluated their accuracy. The participants were 32.4 percent more likely to say they would share the headlines than they were to say those headlines were accurate.

Six from MIT awarded research funding to address Covid-19

The Massachusetts Consortiom on Pathogen Readieness (MassCPR) awarded funding for multiple projects including one headed by Feng Zhang, “Development of a point-of-care diagnostic for COVID-19.” Zhang is the James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience and a professor of brain and cognitive sciences and biological engineering at MIT, and a core member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

SHERLOCK-based one-step test provides rapid and sensitive Covid-19 detection

A team of researchers at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Ragon Institute, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has developed a new diagnostics platform called STOP (SHERLOCK Testing in One Pot). The test can be run in an hour as a single-step reaction with minimal handling, advancing the CRISPR-based SHERLOCK diagnostic technology closer to a point-of-care or at-home testing tool. The test has not been reviewed or approved by the FDA and is currently for research purposes only.

How could Covid-19 and the body’s immune response affect the brain?

To get ahead of the possible long-term neurological problems from infection, multiple labs in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT have begun pursuing research to determine whether and how COVID-19 affects the brain, either directly or via the body’s heightened immune response. 

Covid-19 calls MIT physician-scientist to front-line respiratory care

As both a neurologist who sees patients at Massachusetts General Hospital and a clinical postdoc conducting Alzheimer’s disease clinical studies at MIT’s Picower Institute, Diane Chan already has two demanding jobs. But as eastern New England’s need for Covid-19 care surged in late March, she volunteered to take on a third by joining the first wave of non-internal medicine doctors to be trained to evaluate patients in MGH’s respiratory illness clinics. 

Examining the social impact of Covid-19

After being forced to relocate from their MIT dorms during the Covid19 crisis, two members of Professor Rebecca Saxe's lab at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research are now applying their psychology skills to study the impact of mandatory relocation and social isolation on mental health.

Researching from home: Science stays social, even at a distance

With all but a skeleton crew staying home from each lab to minimize the spread of Covid-19, scores of Picower Institute researchers are immersing themselves in the considerable amount of scientific work that can done away from the bench.

MIT scientist helps build Covid-19 resource to address shortage of face masks

When the Covid-19 crisis hit the United States this March, MIT neuroscientist Jill Crittenden wanted to help. One of her greatest concerns was the shortage of face masks, which are a key weapon for health care providers, frontline service workers, and the public to protect against respiratory transmission of Covid-19.