One of the most fascinating – and important – areas of research regarding COVID-19 is the disease’s effect on the brain. Texas A&M cognitive neuroscientist Jessica Bernard helps decipher a recent study that found people who had COVID-19 infections, including milder cases, showed a decrease in gray matter, which processes information in the brain. Bernard unpacks the research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed but is large-scale, and places the work in the context of her own research on aging.

In case you need more evidence of how broadly artificial intelligence is influencing society, look no farther than some of the stories we published this past week. In one, a human rights specialist with a focus on AI weaponization argues that the first autonomous weapon to kill a person, which may have occurred for the first time last year, marks a dangerous turning point for humanity.

On a far lighter note is a delightful story from a computer scientist who describes his collaboration with musicologists to complete Beethoven’s 10th Symphony using only the composer’s earliest sketches. Also on the theme of music, two computational biologists write about their work making Chopin-inspired music based on the structure of proteins. Both stories have great sound clips.

In other research and science news this week:

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The new findings, although preliminary, are raising concerns about the potential long-term effects of COVID-19. Yuichiro Chino via Getty Images

Preliminary research finds that even mild cases of COVID-19 leave a mark on the brain – but it’s not yet clear how long it lasts

Jessica Bernard, Texas A&M University

Reduced brain volume in people who have experienced COVID-19 resembles brain changes typically seen in older adults. The implications of these findings are not yet clear.

Training an algorithm to play proteins like Chopin can produce more melodious songs. Frederic Chopin/Wikimedia Commons

The music of proteins is made audible through a computer program that learns from Chopin

Peng Zhang, The Rockefeller University; Yuzong Chen, National University of Singapore

Many features of proteins are analogous to music. Mapping these features together creates new musical compositions that help researchers learn about proteins.

The author examining pictographs in 60th Unnamed Cave, Tennessee. Alan Cressler

Ancient Americans made art deep within the dark zones of caves throughout the Southeast

Jan Simek, University of Tennessee

For thousands of years, Native Americans left their artistic mark deep within caves in the American Southeast. It wasn’t until 1980 that these ancient visual expressions were known to archaeologists.

Other good finds