The coronavirus pandemic has had a "lasting impact" on the brain health of people aged 50 or over.
Researchers have discovered that cognitive function and working memory in older adults in the UK declined more quickly in the first year of the pandemic between March 2020 and February 2021 - even if they were not infected with COVID-19.
The trend continued into the following year and the study is the largest of its kind to link the pandemic - and the massive lifestyle changes caused by lockdowns and other restrictions - to sustained brain decline.
Anne Corbett, a professor in dementia research at the University of Exeter, said: "Our findings suggest that lockdowns and other restrictions we experienced during the pandemic have had a lasting impact on brain health in people aged 50 or over, even after the lockdowns ended.
"This raises the important question of whether people are at a potentially higher risk of cognitive decline, which can lead to dementia."