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Assessing Cognitive Functioning in People Living With HIV (PLWH): Factor Analytic Results From CHARTER and NNTC Cohorts.



Single summary scores, such as the Global Deficit Score, are often used to classify overall performance on neuropsychological batteries. The factor structure of test scores that underlie Global Deficit Score in studies of people living with HIV (PLWH) was assessed to determine whether individual test scores loaded onto a unitary factor to summarize performance.


Secondary data analysis on baseline data of PLWH from National NeuroAIDS Tissue Consortium and CNS HIV Antiretroviral Therapy Effects Research (CHARTER) Study.


Primary analyses included testing model structure and fit of neuropsychological test scores with confirmatory and exploratory factor analyses. Secondary analyses involved receiver operating characteristic curves, and associations with psychosocial and medical variables.


Participants with confounds were excluded, leading to 798 (National NeuroAIDS Tissue Consortium) and 1222 (CHARTER) cases. When confirmatory factor analysis models were structured to be consistent with theoretically-based cognitive domains, models did not fit adequately. Per exploratory factor analyses, tests assessing speeded information processing, working memory, and executive functions loaded onto a single factor and explained the most variance in both cohorts. This factor tended to be associated with age, estimated premorbid ability, and aspects of substance use history. Its relation to age, in context of demographically corrected neuropsychological scores, suggested accelerated aging.


Results indicate that individual neuropsychological tests did not load exactly onto expected domains, suggesting another framework for future analyses of cognitive domains. The possibility of a new index, and its use to assess cognitive impairment in PLWH, is suggested for further diagnostic and prognostic purposes.

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