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HIV Infection Is Associated with Attenuated Frontostriatal Intrinsic Connectivity: A Preliminary Study

  • Jonathan C. Ipser (a1), Gregory G. Brown (a2), Amanda Bischoff-Grethe (a2), Colm G. Connolly (a3), Ronald J. Ellis (a2) (a4), Robert K. Heaton (a2), Igor Grant (a2) and Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research Center (TMARC) Group (a2)...

HIV-associated cognitive impairments are prevalent, and are consistent with injury to both frontal cortical and subcortical regions of the brain. The current study aimed to assess the association of HIV infection with functional connections within the frontostriatal network, circuitry hypothesized to be highly vulnerable to HIV infection. Fifteen HIV-positive and 15 demographically matched control participants underwent 6 min of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (RS-fMRI). Multivariate group comparisons of age-adjusted estimates of connectivity within the frontostriatal network were derived from BOLD data for dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), dorsal caudate and mediodorsal thalamic regions of interest. Whole-brain comparisons of group differences in frontostriatal connectivity were conducted, as were pairwise tests of connectivity associations with measures of global cognitive functioning and clinical and immunological characteristics (nadir and current CD4 count, duration of HIV infection, plasma HIV RNA). HIV – associated reductions in connectivity were observed between the DLPFC and the dorsal caudate, particularly in younger participants (<50 years, N=9). Seropositive participants also demonstrated reductions in dorsal caudate connectivity to frontal and parietal brain regions previously demonstrated to be functionally connected to the DLPFC. Cognitive impairment, but none of the assessed clinical/immunological variables, was also associated with reduced frontostriatal connectivity. In conclusion, our data indicate that HIV is associated with attenuated intrinsic frontostriatal connectivity. Intrinsic connectivity of this network may therefore serve as a marker of the deleterious effects of HIV infection on the brain, possibly via HIV-associated dopaminergic abnormalities. These findings warrant independent replication in larger studies. (JINS, 2015, 21, 1–11)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Gregory Brown, SDVAMC, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92161-116A. E-mail:
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