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Effects of HIV and childhood trauma on brain morphometry and neurocognitive function.

  • Author(s): Spies, Georgina
  • Ahmed-Leitao, Fatima
  • Fennema-Notestine, Christine
  • Cherner, Mariana
  • Seedat, Soraya
  • et al.
Abstract

A wide spectrum of neurocognitive deficits characterises HIV infection in adults. HIV infection is additionally associated with morphological brain abnormalities affecting neural substrates that subserve neurocognitive function. Early life stress (ELS) also has a direct influence on brain morphology. However, the combined impact of ELS and HIV on brain structure and neurocognitive function has not been examined in an all-female sample with advanced HIV disease. The present study examined the effects of HIV and childhood trauma on brain morphometry and neurocognitive function. Structural data were acquired using a 3T Magnetom MRI scanner, and a battery of neurocognitive tests was administered to 124 women: HIV-positive with ELS (n = 32), HIV-positive without ELS (n = 30), HIV-negative with ELS (n = 31) and HIV-negative without ELS (n = 31). Results revealed significant group volumetric differences for right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), bilateral hippocampi, corpus callosum, left and right caudate and left and right putamen. Mean regional volumes were lowest in HIV-positive women with ELS compared to all other groups. Although causality cannot be inferred, findings also suggest that alterations in the left frontal lobe, right ACC, left hippocampus, corpus callosum, left and right amygdala and left caudate may be associated with poorer neurocognitive performance in the domains of processing speed, attention/working memory, abstraction/executive functions, motor skills, learning and language/fluency with these effects more pronounced in women living with both HIV and childhood trauma. This study highlights the potential contributory role of childhood trauma to brain alterations and neurocognitive decline in HIV-infected individuals.

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