Cognitive impairment in asymptomatic stages of HIV infection: A longitudinal study

Giampiero Villa, Alessandra Solida, Elena Moro, Mario Tavolozza, Andrea Antinori, Andrea De Luca, Rita Murri, Enrica Tamburrini

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Seventy-eight asymptomatic HIV-seropositive (aHIV) subjects were examined by means of an extensive neuropsychological test battery in comparison with 32 HIV-seronegative controls. They were also tested with regard to CD4+ and serum p24 antigen. Fifty-six of them completed a clinical follow-up of 12 up to 36 months and 35 also underwent a second session of neuropsychological, CD4+ and p24 antigen assessments at a 12- to 18-month interval from the first session. Results obtained lead to the following conclusions(a) even among aHIV subjects there is a significant prevalence (28.2%) of cognitive abnormalities for which no cause other than HIV can be found, and therefore this suggests the possible development of HIV-related brain damage since the earliest stages of infection; (b) most sensitive to early HIV-related cognitive impairment are timed psychomotor tasks and memory tasks which require attention, learning and 'active' monitoring or retrieval of information; (c) during the early asymptomatic stages of HIV infection, there is no clear-cut evidence of a cross-sectional relationship between cognition and immunological/ virological markers (at least in the high ranges of CD4+ cell counts considered here); only in relatively more advanced stages does this relationship become evident in the subgroup of aHIV subjects with cognitive abnormalities(d) the presence of cognitive abnormalities in early HIV infection is predictive of a further decrease in cognitive functioning and faster progression to AIDS - this latter reflected by a faster rate of decline in the number of CD4+ cells and by an increase in positivity of serum p24 antigen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-133
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Neurology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1996


  • Cd4+ cells
  • Cognition
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Neuropsychological markers
  • p24 antigen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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