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Speaker at International Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Conference 2022 - Juliet Stromin
University of Cape Town, South Africa
Title : The relationship between Covid-19 severity and long-term neuropsychological outcomes


In late 2019, the world was introduced to the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) pathogen, a strain of the coronavirus which has caused the respiratory illness termed Covid-19 (coronavirus 2019; Wong, 2021). At the time of writing, there has been a reported six million deaths and approximately 445 million related cases worldwide. Common symptoms include dry cough, fever, fatigue, and shortness of breath (Almeria et al., 2020; Mao et al., 2020).

Similar with that of SARS-CoV, Covid-19 has been shown to bind to the host receptor Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) which is expressed in abundance in the lung on epithelial cells (Yuki et al., 2020). It is posited that Covid-19 attacks and proliferates inside these cells, causing symptoms to emerge (Maiese et al., 2021; Verstrepen et al., 2020; Wong, 2021). 

Neurological symptoms have additionally been reported and, among others, include the loss of smell (anosmia) and taste, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and confusion (Anand et al., 2020; Helms et al., 2020; Herridge et al., 2016; Mao et al., 2020; Mikkelsen et al., 2012; Montalvan et al., 2020; Troyer et al., 2020; Zangbar et al., 2021). These symptoms may be partly attributed to the findings of a recent longitudinal analysis wherein participants received brain scans prior to and post Covid-19 infection (Douaud et al., 2022). These researchers found general brain atrophy following infection.  

Related complications have also arisen concerning pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS; Verstrepen et al., 2020; Wang et al., 2020; Yuki et al., 2020). Further research suggests that in cases of severe Covid-19, persons may be hospitalised with sepsis, encephalopathy, stroke, epileptic seizures, meningitis, myalgia, organ failure and cerebral hypoxia in which a person experiences oxygen loss to the brain (Almeria et al., 2020; Arentz et al., 2020; Chen, 2021; Djaharuddin et al., 2021; Guan et al., 2020; Li et al., 2020; Rothan & Byrareddy, 2020; Wu et al., 2020; Zhu et al., 2020). Unsurprisingly, there is a high infection-mortality rate with adults with pre-existing co-morbidities at highest risk (Djaharuddin et al., 2021; Nuzzo & Picone, 2020). Common risk factors appear to be hypertension, a history of cardiovascular disease and pulmonary complications (Verstrepen et al., 2020; Wang et al., 2020). It is possible, however, for those to contract the novel illness and remain asymptomatic (Iodice et al., 2021).

Furthermore, evidence suggests that the infiltration of Covid-19 can have neuropsychological effects, affecting both cognitive and psychiatric functioning (Almeria et al., 2020; Wildwing & Holt, 2021; Woo et al., 2020). Therefore, a correlational design will be conducted wherein the relationship between Covid-19 illness severity, cognitive functioning and well-being will be investigated. In doing so, the effect of self-awareness of functioning and emotion regulation will additionally be investigated. Data will be analysed using multiple regression analyses and mediation/moderation models. Results are pending.

What will audience learn from your presentation?

  • Audience will be informed on the current literature surrounding Covid-19 and how infection can lead to neurological symptoms similarly found in those with forms of dementia.
  • Audience will learn how Covid-19 may access the brain through multiple pathways, particularly the olfactory pathways.
  • Audience will gain a greater understanding of the extent a sample of the South African population experience Covid-19.
  • Audience will gain a greater understanding of the longevity of the virus and how it presents long-term


Juliet Stromin is a current Master’s student at the University of Cape Town, specializing in Psychological Research with an interest in later specializing in neuropsychological practice.