Proton MR spectroscopy of the brain has been undertaken in 8 healthy volunteers and in 11 patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection and varying stages of AIDS dementia complex (ADC). Spectral appearances in patients with no ADC or early ADC were not significantly different from normal volunteers. Spectra from patients with moderate to severe ADC exhibited significant reductions in levels of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) relative to creatine (Cr) and also showed elevations in choline containing compounds (relative to Cr). Because NAA is though to be a metabolic marker for normally functioning neurons, these findings suggest the presence of neuronal injury or loss in moderate to severe ADC. The significance of these findings is discussed.