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Poster D75

Insights on the Neurocognitive Mechanisms Underlying Cognitive Impairment in COVID-19: Evidence from a Large-Scale Online Study

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Ann-Kathrin Zaiser1, Patric Meyer1,2; 1SRH University Heidelberg, Germany, 2Heidelberg University, Germany

COVID-19 has been associated with acute and long-term cognitive impairments, including memory and concentration deficits, as well as neuropsychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression. However, the neuropathophysiological mechanisms underlying these cognitive and affective changes remain poorly understood. Accumulating evidence points towards neuroinflammation as a potential driver of most acute and post-acute neurofunctional symptoms. We aimed to comprehensively characterize cognitive impairment associated with COVID-19 within a large-scale online study including more than 1400 participants, both individuals who had been infected in the past and individuals who had never been tested positive. Our cognitive test battery covered alertness, executive functions, and episodic long-term memory. Our results demonstrate a pronounced and selective impairment of individuals previously infected in a mnemonic discrimination task known to engage hippocampus-dependent pattern separation. This impairment remained statistically significant after controlling for potential confounding factors such as age, gender, level of education, depressiveness, anxiety, and stress. As hippocampal pattern separation has been linked to hippocampal neurogenesis, is it is conceivable that compromised hippocampal neurogenesis following infection may contribute to the memory deficits observed in COVID-19. Our study has important implications for understanding how COVID-19 affects neurofunctional processes and highlights the potential significance of neuroinflammation in the manifestation of cognitive impairments. Furthermore, these findings could contribute to the development of therapeutic strategies for managing long-term COVID-19 symptoms.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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