Translational spatial task and its relationship to HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders and apolipoprotein E in HIV-seropositive women
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- Morales, D., Acevedo, S.F., Skolasky, R.L. et al. J. Neurovirol. (2012) 18: 488. doi:10.1007/s13365-012-0128-8
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HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) continue to be a neurological complication of HIV infection in the era of combined antiretroviral therapy. Hippocampal neurodegeneration and dysfunction occurs as a result of HIV infection, but few studies to date have assesses spatial learning and memory function in patients with HAND. We used the Memory Island (MI) test to study the effects of HIV infection, apolipoprotein E (ApoE) allele status, and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) ApoE protein levels on spatial learning and memory in our cohort of Hispanic women. The MI test is a virtual reality-based computer program that tests spatial learning and memory and was designed to resemble the Morris Water Maze test of hippocampal function widely used in rodent studies. In the current study, HIV-seropositive women (n = 20) and controls (n = 16) were evaluated with neuropsychological (NP) tests, the MI test, ApoE, and CSF ApoE assays. On the MI, the HIV-seropositive group showed significant reduced learning and delayed memory performance compared with HIV-seronegative controls. When stratified by cognitive performance on NP tests, the HIV-seropositive, cognitively impaired group performed worse than HIV-seronegative controls in ability to learn and in the delayed memory trial. Interestingly, differences were observed in the results obtained by the NP tests and the MI test for ε4 carriers and noncarriers: NP tests showed effects of the ε4 allele in HIV-seronegative women but not HIV-seropositive ones, whereas the converse was true for the MI test. Our findings suggest that the MI test is sensitive in detecting spatial deficits in HIV-seropositive women and that these deficits may arise relatively early in the course of HAND.