Mental Health, Brain Health Are Inextricably Linked, Highlighting Need for COVID-19 Brain Health Research

This week is National Brain Awareness Week, so Pharmacy Times® interviewed Caroline Carney, MD, MSc, FAPM, CPHQ, CMO of Magellan Health, on some of the issues surrounding the contemporary understanding of mental health and brain health.

This week is National Brain Awareness Week, so Pharmacy Times® interviewed Caroline Carney, MD, MSc, FAPM, CPHQ, chief medical officer of Magellan Health and a board-certified psychiatrist, to discuss some of the issues relating to the contemporary understanding of mental health and brain health, and how they are treated and researched today.

During the discussion, Carney addressed potential reasons for the poor understanding of the relationship between mental health and brain health, the ways that the brain health and mental health fields are connected in terms of their treatment and research, the ways that brain health and the health of the body are approached differently in modern medicine, and some areas that would benefit from further investigation in the field today.

Carney explained that one of the most obvious areas of brain health research that would be beneficial to investigate further would be into the effects of COVID-19 on the brain in the longer term.

She noted that research would potentially allow for teasing out the effects caused specifically by the viral infection itself on brain structures and inflammation, versus the effects of the trauma of having critically ill patients remain in isolation from their loved ones, versus the effects of all of the lifestyle changes that the world has lived through in the past year.

“It will be a very complex area to try to sort through, but one that's really critically needed,” Carney said. “It will provide insight not only into how COVID-19 has affected our ultimate brain health and emotional health, but how other viral processes and perhaps other inflammatory diseases affect health as well.”

Carney also addressed some of the challenges relating to conducting research on brain health, some potential opportunities for future research into brain health on the horizon, ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected treatment and research in the brain health field, and some of the lasting impacts from the pandemic on the brain health field.