Verbal and spatial working memory among drug-using HIV-infected men and women

Eileen Martin, M. K. Keutmann, J. S. Fogel, P. M. Maki, R. Gonzalez, J. Vassileva, L. H. Rubin, D. Hardy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Working memory (WM) is a critical component of many neurocognitive functions. The literature has demonstrated consistently that WM impairment is more frequent and severe among substance-dependent individuals (SDIs) infected with HIV compared with uninfected SDIs; however, the SDIs who participated in these previous studies were primarily male. There are few published data on WM performance among HIV+ women with or without substance use disorders, and essentially no direct comparisons of WM performance between HIV+ men and women, regardless of substance use. We investigated potential sex and serostatus effects on WM among a sample of 360 SDIs (114 with HIV; 66% female) verified abstinent from alcohol and drugs of abuse at testing and generally comparable on substance use and comorbid characteristics. Participants were tested with the n-back task, a well-established WM measure that is sensitive to HIV-associated cognitive impairment. HIV+ men and women performed spatial and verbal versions of the n-back significantly less accurately compared with HIV− participants. Women showed slower response times compared with men on both versions, regardless of HIV serostatus. Individuals dependent on cocaine showed faster RTs compared with non-dependent users, but this effect was not apparent among opioid- or alcohol-dependent groups. Findings on n-back accuracy are consistent with our previous proposal that WM impairment represents a signature deficit among HIV+ SDIs; however, WM impairment appears less common among HIV+ women without a substance use history. The pattern of sex differences in response speed but serostatus effects on response accuracy is comparable to a recent report by our group of sex differences in learning speed but serostatus effects on delayed recall.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-497
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurovirology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Drug use
  • HIV
  • N-back
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Sex differences
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Virology


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