Greater Sensorimotor Deficits and Abnormally Lower Globus Pallidus Fractional Anisotropy in HIV+ Women than in HIV+ Men

Hua Jun Liang, Erin E. O’Connor, Thomas Ernst, Kenichi Oishi, Eric Cunningham, Linda Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Aims: Cognitive impairment may be greater in HIV-positive (HIV+) women than in HIV+ men. Whether sex-specific differences exist in brain microstructure of HIV+ individuals is unknown and was evaluated. Method: 39 HIV+ (21 men, 18 women) and 45 seronegative (SN, 20 men, 25 women) participants were assessed with brain diffusion tensor imaging and cognitive assessments (7 neuropsychological domains). Fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) were measured with an automated atlas in selected brain regions. Group comparisons were assessed with linear mixed effects models, with sub-regions and hemisphere (left/right) as repeated factors for each region. Results: HIV+ women, but not HIV+ men, were slower than sex-matched SN controls on sensorimotor function (Dominant-hand: interaction-p = 0.007; Non-dominant hand: interaction-p = 0.039). Similarly, only HIV+ women had lower FA in the globus pallidus (GP, interaction-p = 0.011). Additionally, regardless of sex, the HIV+ group had poorer Fluency, Speed, and Attention than SN-controls (p = 0.006–0.008), as well as lower FA and higher MD in multiple brain regions (p = <0.001–0.044). Across all participants, performance on Attention was predicted by uncinate-FA (p < 0.001, r = 0.5) and corpus callosum (CC)-FA (p = 0.038, r = 0.23), while the Speed of Information Processing was predicted by CC-FA (p = 0.009, r = 0.3). Furthermore, faster sensorimotor function correlated with higher CC-FA and uncinate-FA in men but not in women (Sex*DTI-interaction-p = 0.03–0.06). Conclusions: The relatively poorer sensorimotor function and abnormally lower GP_FA, suggesting lesser neuronal integrity, in HIV+ women demonstrate sex-specific effects from HIV-infection on these measures. These findings may be related to the greater immune activation and neuroinflammation in HIV+ women compared to HIV+ men. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-345
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Brain
  • Fractional anisotropy
  • HIV
  • MRI
  • Mean diffusivity
  • Sensorimotor
  • Sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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