Heterogeneity in neurocognitive change trajectories among people with HIV starting antiretroviral therapy in Rakai, Uganda

Leah H. Rubin, Deanna Saylor, Gertrude Nakigozi, Noeline Nakasujja, Kevin Robertson, Alice Kisakye, James Batte, Richard Mayanja, Aggrey Anok, Sarah M. Lofgren, David R. Boulware, Raha Dastgheyb, Steven J. Reynolds, Thomas C. Quinn, Ronald H. Gray, Maria J. Wawer, Ned Sacktor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Considerable heterogeneity exists in patterns of neurocognitive change in people with HIV (PWH). We examined heterogeneity in neurocognitive change trajectories from HIV diagnosis to 1–2 years post-antiretroviral therapy (ART). In an observational cohort study in Rakai, Uganda, 312 PWH completed a neuropsychological (NP) test battery at two-time points (ART-naïve, 1–2 years post-ART initiation). All NP outcomes were used in a latent profile analysis to identify subgroups of PWH with similar ART-related neurocognitive change profiles. In a subset, we examined subgroup differences pre-ART on cytokine and neurodegenerative biomarkers CSF levels. We identified four ART-related change subgroups: (1) decline-only (learning, memory, fluency, processing speed, and attention measures), (2) mixed (improvements in learning and memory but declines in attention and executive function measures), (3) no-change, or (4) improvement-only (learning, memory, and attention measures). ART-related NP outcomes that are most likely to change included learning, memory, and attention. Motor function measures were unchanged. Subgroups differed on eight of 34 pre-ART biomarker levels including interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-13, interferon-γ, macrophage inflammatory protein-1β, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-3, MMP-10, and platelet-derived growth factor-AA. The improvement-only and mixed subgroups showed lower levels on these markers versus the no-change subgroup. These findings provide support for the need to disentangle heterogeneity in ART-related neurocognitive changes, to focus on higher-order cognitive processes (learning, memory, attention) as they were most malleable to change, and to better understand why motor function remained unchanged despite ART treatment. Group differences in pre-ART CSF levels provide preliminary evidence of biological plausibility of neurocognitive phenotyping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)800-813
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurovirology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Journal of NeuroVirology, Inc.


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Global health
  • HIV


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