Older adults have been reported to have increased susceptibility to the adverse effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection, such as fatal outcomes, cognitive decline, and changes in physical and/or mental health. However, few studies have examined neuropsychological changes by comparing measurements before and during the pandemic in healthy older people. In addition, no longitudinal studies have examined whether older adults may have responded positively to the pandemic. We examined these issues through a 2-year neuropsychological study before and during the pandemic period. Results showed that scores before and during the pandemic were the same in memory and attention, whereas global cognitive, executive, and language functions improved. Participants also showed no longitudinal changes in depression, hypomania, and disinhibition, while apathy and, to a lesser extent, anxiety increased significantly. To examine possible signs of pandemic-related emotional (dys)regulation, subjects were shown images at follow-up that recalled the most dramatic lockdown phase while heart rate variability was recorded. Higher apathy was predicted by poorer global cognitive performance, increased anxiety, and emotional dysregulation as measured by a higher ratio of low-to-high frequency heart rate variability. Thus, preserved global cognition appears to play a protective role against the effects of pandemic-related anxiety and emotional dysregulation on apathy.

Fuente: Scientific Reports
Published: 19 April 2023