(Front from right: Hannatu Amaza, Fozia Ghafoor, Karin Hoth, Cari Linkenmeyer, Rachel Luehrs

Back from right: Eric Axleson, Eric Hoffman, Gary Pierce)

COPD and the Brain Study


The goal of the COPD and the Brain study is to identify lung and vascular changes that affect brain health in smokers with early COPD-related illness.  Cognitive difficulties are common in patients with COPD and can negatively impact their quality of life and daily functioning. Past research on cognition in COPD has examined a relatively limited range of physiological measures and has focused primarily on advanced illness. Our current project addresses these weaknesses by integrating measures of lung CT, systemic arterial physiology, structural brain MRI, and cognition targeting early COPD.


We will invite both never-smokers and smokers across the spectrum of airflow limitation (i.e., normal to moderately reduced lung function) to participate during the course of the 5 year project. Our goal is to better understand the impact of COPD-related pathophysiological mechanisms on the brain, focused on brain vulnerability early in the development of COPD. Knowledge about the link between COPD-related physiology and the brain has implications for clinical care, including identifying patients who are at risk of cognitive impairment and targeting treatment of factors known to underlie these impairments.


This project is a multidisciplinary effort that brings together a team of scientists with expertise in clinical neuropsychology (Dr. Karin Hoth), brain imaging (Drs. Vince Magnotta and Peg Nopoulos), vascular physiology (Dr. Gary Pierce), lung physiology and imaging (Drs. John Newell and Eric Hoffman), clinical pulmonary research (Dr. Alejandro Comellas), and biostatistics. 


The project is possible given the following unique resources at the University of Iowa:


The study is funded by a 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (R01 HL134822; PI, Karin Hoth; Full Title: Determinants of Altered Brain Structure and Function in Smokers with COPD-Related Lung Pathophysiology). 

COPD and the Brain Study Co-Investigators

Gary Pierce, PhD, Professor

Department of Health and Human Physiology, University of Iowa

Alejandro Comellas, MD, Clinical Professor

Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa

Eric Hoffman, PhD, Professor

Department of Radiology, University of Iowa

John Newell Jr., MD, Professor

Department of Radiology, University of Iowa

Vince Magnotta, PhD, Professor

Department of Radiology, University of Iowa

Peg Nopoulos, MD, Professor

Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa