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2022 Neuropsychological Effects of COVID-19 in Older Adults from Health Disparity Populations (NAN)

Neurocognitive Trajectories in Older Adults with COVID-19 in the Deep South

How do COVID-19 diagnosis and severity impact changes in memory for older adults over time?

Pariya Fazeli Wheeler, Ph.D.
University of Alabama
Birmingham, AL - United States


Some people who contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, experience persistent neurological, psychological and mood symptoms weeks to months after initial infection. This can even occur for some individuals whose initial infection was mild. Although the causes of these neurocognitive changes are not well understood, immune activation and inflammation is known to persist after SARS-CoV-2 infection and may contribute to these changes.

Older adults and Black/ African American individuals are at higher risk for COVID-19 infection and some studies suggest also worse severity of illness. These populations are also at higher risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. More research is needed to understand the effect of COVID-19 on changes in memory, thinking and reasoning in older adults.

Research Plan

Dr. Pariya Fazeli Wheeler and colleagues will study how COVID-19 diagnosis and severity impact the path of changes in memory, function and behavior in a diverse cohort of older adults. The researchers will study 100 individuals aged 65 and older from the University of Alabama Health System with a prior COVID-19 diagnosis, half of whom had COVID-19 with mild or no symptoms and half of whom had moderate to severe symptoms. In addition, about half of the individuals will be Black/African American. Dr. Wheeler and the research team will collect neurobehavioral measurements and blood samples from the individuals twice over the course of a year to further the understanding of changes after infection.


The results of this project may inform future work on identifying and treating individuals most at risk for cognitive decline following COVID-19 diagnoses.

The NeuroCOVID Grant Program was developed jointly with the Alzheimer's Association and the National Academy of Neuropsychology.

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