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Elevated stress is associated with prefrontal cortex dysfunction during a verbal memory task in women with HIV

Abstract

HIV-infected women may be particularly vulnerable to verbal learning and memory deficits. One factor contributing to these deficits is high perceived stress, which is associated with prefrontal cortical (PFC) atrophy and memory outcomes sensitive to PFC function, including retrieval and semantic clustering. We examined the association between stress and PFC activation during a verbal memory task in 36 HIV-infected women from the Chicago Consortium of the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) to better understand the role of the PFC in this stress-related impairment. Participants completed standardized measures of verbal learning and memory and stress (perceived stress scale-10). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain function while participants completed encoding and recognition phases of a verbal memory task. HIV-infected women with higher stress (scores in top tertile) performed worse on all verbal memory outcomes including strategic encoding (p < 0.05) compared to HIV-infected women with lower stress (scores in lower two tertiles). Patterns of brain activation during recognition (but not encoding) differed between women with higher vs. lower stress. During recognition, women with higher stress demonstrated greater deactivation in medial PFC and posterior cingulate cortex compared to women with lower stress (p < 0.05). Greater deactivation in medial PFC marginally related to less efficient strategic retrieval (p = 0.06). Similar results were found in analyses focusing on PTSD symptoms. Results suggest that stress might alter the function of the medial PFC in HIV-infected women resulting in less efficient strategic retrieval and deficits in verbal memory.

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Acknowledgments

Data in this manuscript were collected by the Chicago site of the Women’s Interagency HIV study (WIHS) and is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) grant U01 A1034993 (PI: Mardge Cohen, M.D.) and co-funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). L. Rubin’s effort was supported by grant number 1K01MH098798-01 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and grant number K12HD055892 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH). This grant was also supported by the Chicago Developmental Center for AIDS Research (D-CFAR), an NIH funded program (P30 AI 082151), which is supported by the following NIH Institutes and Centers (NIAID, NCI, NIMH, NIDA, NICHD, NHLBI, NCCAM). V. Meyer’s effort on this project was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1F31DA028573). E. Sundermann’s effort on this project was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (1F31MH083537). This work was previously presented in part as part of an oral presentation at the 6th International Workshop on HIV and Aging on October 5 in Washington, DC and as part of a poster presentation at the 13th International Symposium on Neurovirology on June 3 in San Diego, California.

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Correspondence to Leah H. Rubin.

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Leah H. Rubin and Minjie Wu are equally contributing first authors

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Rubin, L.H., Wu, M., Sundermann, E.E. et al. Elevated stress is associated with prefrontal cortex dysfunction during a verbal memory task in women with HIV. J. Neurovirol. 22, 840–851 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13365-016-0446-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13365-016-0446-3

Keywords

  • HIV
  • Stress
  • Verbal memory
  • fMRI
  • Prefrontal cortex