The impact of Covid-19 on neuropsychological functioning and latelife dementia risk: The role of inflammation and oxidative stress

Grant_Africa-UniNet P063

Covid-19, neuropsychological functioning and latelife dementia risk             

Funding Body: Africa-Uninet, P063 

Duration: 2022-2023

Principal Investigator:

Karl-Heinz Wagner

Main Project group:

Dipl.-Ing. Laura Bragagna

Agnes Draxler, BSc., MSc.

Cooperation partners:

Prof. Dr. Jeanine von MetzingerCape Peninsula University of Technology, Capetown, SA


Short description:

The Covid-19 pandemic has several important implications for the fields of aging and neurocognitive health. Patients recovering from severe Covid-19 illness demonstrate impairments in memory, processing speed, executive functions and neuropsychiatric status.

Neuroinflammation is currently considered the primary mechanism of neuropsychological complications in Covid-19 and because of the intimate, bidirectional relationship between inflammation and oxidative stress, we can speculate that oxidative damage will account for a proportion of these complications in acute and Long Covid. Alterations in immune-related and oxidative pathways are also strongly implicated in several neurodegenerative disorders. The heightened inflammatory responses linked to Covid-19, which activate neutrophils and mononuclear phagocyte system cells to produce high volumes of reactive oxygen species, are primed to potentially exacerbate dementia risk and accelerate disease progression in the elderly.

The present study therefore proposes to recruit 174 participants aged between 40-65 years into a longitudinal design with a prior Covid-19 illness history. An initial assessment will take place between 12-24 months post-infection and a follow-up assessment to track changes over time will take place 9 months later.

Our aims are to: 1) Assess the extent of Covid-19-related neurocognitive fallout at one-two year follow-up; 2) Ascertain key biomarkers from serum samples of neurodegeneration including beta-amyloid and tau, and inflammation and oxidative stress 3) To characterize the antibody response to Covid-19 infection in asymptomatic and symptomatic participants and 4) Assess the extent to which these biomarkers are predictive of cognitive dysfunction. An empirically based understanding of these dynamics will be critical for mobilising healthcare systems to meet the needs of Covid 19 survivors and identifying those at high risk for developing neurodegenerative conditions on the basis of targeted biomarker profiles.