UAB receives $100,000 grant to study cognitive effects of COVID-19 in older adults

UAB receives $100,000 grant to study cognitive effects of COVID-19 in older adults
Pariya Wheeler, Ph.D., will study the neurocognitive functions of older adults who had COVID-19. The grant is one of UAB’s first grants examining the cognitive effects of the virus. (UAB / Frank Couch)

UAB School of Nursing Associate Professor Pariya Wheeler has been awarded a two-year, $100,000 grant to study the neuropsychological impact of COVID-19 in older adults.

It is one of UAB’s first grants examining the cognitive effects of COVID-19 and one of eight awards from the National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Wheeler’s study will recruit 100 adults age 65 and older who had COVID-19. Over the course of a year, Wheeler will collect data on neurocognitive functions, blood biomarkers and symptoms of acute COVID-19. Data from the UAB Alzheimer’s Disease Center will be a control comparison group.

Wheeler will apply UAB’s $100,000 grant toward studying COVID-19’s cognitive effects on older people. (Getty Images)

“Given the COVID-19 disparities and burden in the South, our cohort of older adults with COVID-19 from which to recruit is large and racially diverse,” Wheeler said. “This study will enroll 50% Black participants. The research infrastructure to conduct this study at UAB is also exceptional, including the ability to leverage the UAB Alzheimer’s Disease Center for a comparison cohort. I believe these factors helped set my research apart, leading to the receipt of this grant.”

NAN and the Alzheimer’s Association partnered to provide $800,000 to build a greater understanding of how the pandemic has impacted populations that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 but are underrepresented in research.

“We recognize that COVID-19 is associated with cognitive complications,” said NAN Executive Director William Perry. “It’s apparent that older people from underserved communities are more frequently infected and are disproportionately experiencing the consequences of health care disparities.”

Wheeler’s study is in collaboration with the UAB NeuroCOVID Group, a collaborative working group that formed in March 2020.

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.

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