Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)



First Advisor

Robin Wellington

Second Advisor

William Chaplin

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Nevid


The pathophysiology of severe respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), supports the theory that oxygen deprivation to the brain may impact the brain’s execution of cognitive functions. Imaging studies also suggest that neuroanatomical changes in areas of the brain responsible for cognitive processes may be associated with respiratory diseases. Research in this area has failed to conclude definitively, especially in an older adult population, which is more likely to experience comorbid depression and cardiovascular disease, universally acknowledged predictors of poorer cognitive performance, the extent of the relationship between respiratory illness and cognitive functioning. The current study investigated the association between respiratory disease with cognitive performance in older adults, also considering the relative impact of cardiovascular disease and depression. Functioning was examined globally and in the individual domains of psychomotor functioning and verbal ability. Physiological measures of disease were also explored for potential relationships with cognition. Results suggest that depression was consistently associated with poorer performance across cognitive domains, whereas cardiovascular disease was primarily associated with reduced functioning in psychomotor tasks. After accounting for these effects, no additional association between respiratory disease and cognitive functioning was identified, with the possible exception of COPD relating to enhanced verbal ability. None of the physiological measures obtained were found to correlate with cognition in this research. Explanations and implications of these findings are discussed.

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Psychology Commons