Neurocognitive Dysfunction With Neuronal Injury in People With HIV on Long-Duration Antiretroviral Therapy

Cynthia McMahan, Devon K. Dietrich, Elizabeth F. Horne, Erin Kelly, Katrina Geannopoulos, Peter Selim Siyahhan Julnes, Lillian Ham, Ulisses Santamaria, Chuen Yen Lau, Tianxia Wu, Hsing Chuan Hsieh, Anuradha Ganesan, Catherine Berjohn, Suad Kapetanovic, Daniel S. Reich, Govind Nair, Joseph Snow, Brian K. Agan, Avindra Nath, Bryan R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and ObjectivesNeurologic outcomes in people with HIV (PWH) on long-duration antiretroviral therapy (ART) are not fully understood, and the underlying pathophysiology is unclear. To address this, we established a cohort of such individuals and compared them with HIV-negative controls using a novel matching technique. Both groups underwent extensive cognitive testing, evaluation for psychiatric measures, and MRI and CSF analyses.MethodsParticipants underwent comprehensive neuropsychological testing and completed standardized questionnaires measuring depressive symptoms, perceptions of own functioning, and activities of daily living as part of an observational study. Brain MRI and lumbar puncture were optional. Coarsened Exact Matching was used to reduce between-group differences in age and sex, and weighted linear/logistic regression models were used to assess the effect of HIV on outcomes.ResultsData were analyzed from 155 PWH on ART for at least 15 years and 100 HIV-negative controls. Compared with controls, PWH scored lower in the domains of attention/working memory (PWH least square mean [LSM] = 50.4 vs controls LSM = 53.1, p = 0.008) and motor function (44.6 vs 47.7, p = 0.009) and a test of information processing speed (symbol search 30.3 vs 32.2, p = 0.003). They were more likely to self-report a higher number of cognitive difficulties in everyday life (p = 0.011). PWH also reported more depressive symptoms, general anxiety, and use of psychiatric medications (all with p < 0.05). PWH had reduced proportions of subcortical gray matter on MRI (β = -0.001, p < 0.001), and CSF showed elevated levels of neurofilament light chain (664 vs 529 pg/mL, p = 0.01) and tumor necrosis factor α (0.229 vs 0.156 ng/mL, p = 0.0008).DiscussionPWH, despite effective ART for over a decade, displayed neurocognitive deficits and mood abnormalities. MRI and CSF analyses revealed reduced brain volume and signs of ongoing neuronal injury and neuroinflammation. As the already large proportion of virologically controlled PWH continues to grow, longitudinal studies should be conducted to elucidate the implications of cognitive, psychiatric, MRI, and CSF abnormalities in this group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2466-E2476
Issue number24
StatePublished - 13 Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


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