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

Long COVID Effects on Brain Cognition and Biomarkers

How does Long COVID interact with psychosocial factors to impact cognition and brain function over time?

Eduardo Zimmer, Ph.D.
Federal University Of Rio Grande do Sul
Porto Alegre, Brazil


Some individuals 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 condition, referred to as “Long COVID,” is marked by the continuation of COVID-19 symptoms, or the emergence of new ones, after recovery from the initial phase of illness. Long COVID symptoms can include fatigue, inattention, poor concentration, memory deficits, and lack of motivation.

More research is needed to understand the biological underpinnings of Long COVID. A part of this ongoing work should study social groups at higher risk of disease infection and mortality, such as individuals from low-income backgrounds or with low-education levels.

Research Plan

Dr. Eduardo Zimmer and colleagues will study neurological symptoms after moderate or severe COVID-19 in individuals with low and high levels of education. The researchers will enroll individuals (ages 50-90) who received health care from public hospitals in Porto Alegre, Brazil. In addition, the researchers will recruit individuals with low education levels from poor communities (favelas).

Dr. Zimmer and team will evaluate the individuals at baseline, 9-month, and 18-month follow-up visits. The researchers will administer clinical and cognitive evaluations and collect blood samples to monitor potential cognitive changes and differences in biological markers (biomarkers) of brain changes. They will also use structural brain scans (magnetic resonance imaging, MRI) and functional brain scans ([18F]-Flurodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography, FDG- PET) to study brain energy use and neurodegeneration over time.


The results may contribute to our understanding of the impact of Long COVID in diverse populations of older adults. The findings may shed light on brain changes associated with Long COVID and help predict the risk for developing brain disorders following COVID infection.

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

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