Acute versus chronic inflammatory markers and cognition in older black adults: Results from the Minority Aging Research Study

Brain Behav Immun. 2022 Jul:103:163-170. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2022.04.014. Epub 2022 Apr 16.


Peripheral inflammation is elevated in older Black adults, an elevation which prior work has suggested may be due to chronic stress associated with systemic racism and related adverse cardiovascular health conditions. Inflammation is also involved in the pathogenic processes of dementia; however, limited (and mixed) results exist concerning inflammation and cognitive decline in Black adults. We characterized patterns of inflammation and their role in cognitive decline in 280 older Black adults (age = 72.99 ± 6.00 years; 69.6% female) from the Minority Aging Research Study (MARS) who were without dementia at baseline and followed between 2 and 15 years (mean = 9 years). Participants completed a blood draw at baseline and annual cognitive evaluations. Serum was assayed for 9 peripheral inflammatory markers; 19 neuropsychological test scores were used to create indices of global cognition and five cognitive domains. Principal component analysis with varimax rotation characterized patterns of inflammation with factor loadings > 0.6 per component contributing to two composite scores representing acute/upstream and chronic/downstream inflammation. These composites were used as separate predictors in linear mixed regression models to determine associations with level and change in cognition adjusting for relevant covariates. Higher baseline upstream/acute inflammation associated with lower baseline semantic memory (p = .040) and perceptual speed (p = .046); it was not related to cognitive decline. By contrast, higher baseline downstream/chronic inflammation associated with faster declines in global cognition (p = .010), episodic (p = .027) and working memory (p = .006); it was not related to baseline cognition. For older Black adults, chronic, but not acute, inflammation may be a risk factor for changes in cognition.

Keywords: African American/Black adults; Aging; Cognition; Inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / psychology
  • Dementia*
  • Female
  • Geroscience
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests