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

NeuroCOVID: Determinants of Brain Health in Diverse Older Adults

How might COVID-19 interact with health disparities to impact cognitive impairment in older adults?

Vanessa Zizak, Ph.D.
Southern California Institute for Research and Education
Long Beach, CA - United States


Older adults have been found to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Studies show that some older adults with COVID-19 may experience lasting cognitive or mood symptoms following infection, such as memory deficits or depression. 

Studies have also found that a range of factors, including socioeconomic status and mental health, may impact an individual’s risk for severe COVID-19. More research is needed to understand the long-term cognitive and mood symptoms associated with COVID-19, including the risk factors influencing long-term symptoms, and the mechanisms responsible for their persistence or recovery, especially in demographically diverse populations.

Research Plan

Dr. Vanessa Zizak and colleagues will study how sociocultural factors predict cognitive impairment in a diverse group of adults (ages 40-90) with COVID-19.  First, the researchers will investigate neurocognitive differences between participants with a past history of COVID-19 and participants with no history of COVID-19. Next, the team will study the social determinants of health (such as education, socioeconomic burden, perceived discrimination, and race-related stress) that contribute to disparities in COVID-19-related brain health outcomes in the participants. Finally, Dr. Zizak and team will use brain scans (magnetic resonance imaging, MRI) to investigate the structural brain changes associated with neuropsychological impairments following COVID-19.


The results of this project may shed light on how COVID-19 may interact with health disparities and potentially exacerbate cognitive impairment in older adults. The findings may inform development of treatments and more inclusive interventions for diverse populations.

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

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