Background: Infections with different herpes viruses have been associated with cognitive functioning in psychiatric patients and healthy adults. The aim of this study was to find out whether antibodies to different herpes viruses are prospectively associated with cognitive functioning in a general adolescent population.
Methods: This study was performed in TRAILS, a large prospective general population cohort (N = 1084, 54% female, mean age 16.2 years (SD 0.6)). At age 16, immunoglobulin G antibodies against HSV1, HSV2, CMV and EBV were measured next to high sensitive C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP). Two years later, immediate memory and executive functioning were assessed using the 15 words task and the self ordered pointing task. Multiple linear regression analysis with bootstrapping was performed to study the association between viral infections and cognitive function, adjusting for gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and cannabis use.
Results: Presence of HSV1 antibodies was associated with memory function ((B = -0.272, 95% CI = -0.556 to -0.016, p = 0.047)), while the association with executive functioning did not reach statistical significance (B = 0.560, 95% CI is -0.053 to 1.184, p = 0.075). The level of HSV1 antibodies was associated with both memory function (B = -0.160, 95% CI = -0.280 to -0.039, p = 0.014) and executive functioning (B = 0.296, 95% CI = 0.011 to 0.578, p = 0.046). Other herpes viruses and hsCRP were not associated with cognitive functioning.
Conclusions: Both presence and level of HSV1 antibodies are prospectively associated with reduced cognitive performance in a large cohort of adolescents.