13 May 2022
Investigating the Impact of COVID-19 on Cognition
Children of the 90s collaborates with researchers at Cambridge Cognition to investigate the cognitive impacts of COVID-19.
The Children of the 90s health study has collaborated with researchers at Cambridge Cognition, a technology company developing digital health products to assess brain health, to investigate the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on cognition. Children of the 90s, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), has approximately 28,000 participants from across three generations of Bristol families, and has recently celebrated its 30th year. The health and biological data collection is extensive, spanning both multiple years and generations. Now, in the COVID-19 era, its collaboration with Cambridge Cognition will investigate the impact of the pandemic on cognition by providing participants with a platform to undertake digital cognitive assessments and electronic questionnaires and scales.
Around one in five people report cognitive symptoms lasting at least three months after a COVID-19 infection1, making it one of the most troubling long-term risks of contracting the virus. These symptoms are particularly impacting the working-age population: in one study, 86% of people with “long COVID” reported struggling with work because of ongoing cognitive problems2. However, to improve outcomes for affected individuals, further research is required to accurately characterise cognition in COVID-19 recovery.
The Children of the 90s study will play a pivotal role in improving our understanding of how the pandemic has affected cognition, due to its unique dataset characterising cohort members’ data for 30 years prior to COVID-19. A new wave of cognitive data collection with Cambridge Cognition’s gold-standard cognitive assessments, CANTABTM, launched in April 2022. This, combined with the health study’s careful collection of COVID-19 symptom data throughout the pandemic, will provide a unique insight into how cognition has been affected by COVID-19. The public can find out more about the study’s COVID-19 work via their website: www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/covid-19.
By reliably measuring cognitive function in the recovery phase of COVID-19, the study will be able to offer an accurate characterisation of cognitive change with a view to standardising how post-COVID-19 cognitive symptoms are measured and encouraging further research into their causes and possible treatments.
Marcus Munafo, Professor of Biological Psychology at the University of Bristol, said:
"The pandemic has been a graphic illustration of just how important population-based research is. Due to the unique nature of Children of the 90s – the depth of data and the amount of time that it has been running – our collaboration with Cambridge Cognition will help us to understand the impact of long COVID on not just our physical health but cognitive function too. As with all we do, it’s thanks to our wonderful participants that we are able to generate this data that is key to our understanding of the last two years."
Matthew Stork, Chief Executive Officer for Cambridge Cognition, said:
"Characterising the long-term cognitive impacts of COVID-19 infection is the first step in developing effective treatments for this prevalent symptom. We are pleased to be contributing to this important research by partnering with the Children of the 90s study to deploy our web-based assessments for the efficient and objective measurement of function at scale."
Jenny Barnett, Scientific Adviser for Cambridge Cognition, said:
"Because of the extraordinary longitudinal data available in the Children of the 90s cohort, there is a unique opportunity to characterise what effect the pandemic, and particularly COVID-19 infection, has had on people’s cognitive function. We are delighted to support this special study and look forward to learning a lot from it. We hope that studies like this will demonstrate how important and tractable cognitive assessments are with this population and encourage new research into possible interventions for people living with COVID-19 associated cognitive impairment."
About Children of the 90s
Based at the University of Bristol, Children of the 90s, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), is a long-term health research project that enrolled more than 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and 1992. It has been following the health and development of the parents, their children and now their grandchildren in detail ever since. It receives core funding from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the University of Bristol.
For further information visit childrenofthe90s.ac.uk