Diminished Cellular Immunity and Executive Cognitive Functioning Among Middle-Aged and Elderly Adults

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Objective Within the field of psychoneuroimmunology, much attention has been given to immune dysregulation and its impact on cognitive functioning. Some of this work has focused on the association between high levels of basal proinflammatory cytokines and poorer performance on measures of executive functioning; however, effect sizes have been quite small in human studies. Methods We investigated whether Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody titers, a marker of immune dysregulation related to cellular immunity, may be associated with executive functioning while also attempting to replicate prior studies using two markers of proinflammatory cytokine production (i.e., circulating and lipopolysaccharide [LPS]-stimulated cytokines [interleukin 6, interleukin 1β, interferon-γ]). A total of 71 community-dwelling adults (mean [standard deviation] age = 60.87 [6.26] years) who were seropositive for EBV infection participated in the study. Results Findings indicated that greater EBV antibody titers were associated with poorer performance on measures of the executive functions of inhibition (B = -2.36, standard error = 1.06, p =.028) and cognitive flexibility (B = -2.89, standard error = 1.13, p =.013) when including circulating and LPS-stimulated cytokines and other relevant covariates (i.e., age, sex, and body mass index) in linear regression analyses. Neither circulating nor LPS-stimulated cytokines were associated with performance on the cognitive tasks in the regression analyses. Conclusions These results suggest that EBV antibody titers may be an indicator of immune dysregulation that is more relevant to executive functioning performance than either circulating or stimulated proinflammatory cytokines among community-dwelling adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-684
Number of pages6
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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