Irish scientists have discovered new insights into delirium - a disorienting and distressing disorder particularly common in the elderly, and one that is occurring in a large proportion of patients hospitalised with Covid-19.
Delirium is a common condition that usually affects people's brains for a short period of time. It can cause a number of problems, including confusion and difficulty in concentration.
The research, by scientists in Trinity College Dublin, is published in the 'Journal of Neuroscience'.
It suggests that therapies focusing on brain energy metabolism may offer new routes to mitigating delirium.
They said that when the body experiences high levels of inflammation - such as during bacterial or viral infections - the way our brains function changes, which in turn affects our mood and motivation.
"Simply providing glucose to patients is not likely to treat delirium in most cases," said Professor Colm Cunningham, who leads the Trinity Biomedical Science Institute lab where the work was performed.
"But collectively our data emphasises that an appropriate supply of both oxygen and glucose to the brain becomes especially important in older patients and in those with existing dementia."
The researchers said that, given the frequency of delirium among hospitalised members of the elderly population, and that these episodes can accelerate the progress of underlying dementia, treatments are desperately needed.