Interhemispheric Asymmetries and Theta Activity in the Rostral Anterior Cingulate Cortex as EEG Signature of HIV-Related Depression: Gender Matters

Clin EEG Neurosci. 2016 Apr;47(2):96-104. doi: 10.1177/1550059414563306. Epub 2015 Jan 6.


Resting EEGs of 40 people living with HIV (PLWH) on long-term antiretroviral treatment were examined for z-scored deviations from a healthy control (normative database) to examine the main and interaction effects of depression and gender. Regions of interest were frontal (alpha) and central (all bands) for interhemispheric asymmetries in quantitative EEGs and theta in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) in low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA). Z-scored normed deviations of depressed PLWH, compared with nondepressed, showed right-dominant interhemispheric asymmetries in all regions. However, after adjusting for multiple testing, significance remained only central for theta, alpha, and beta. Reversed (left-dominant) frontal alpha asymmetry is a potential EEG marker of depression in the HIV negative population that was not reversed in depressive PLWH; however, corresponding with extant literature, gender had an effect on the size of frontal alpha asymmetry. The LORETA analysis revealed a trending interactional effect of depression and gender on theta activity in the rACC in Brodmann area 32. We found that compared to men, women had greater right-dominant frontal alpha-asymmetry and elevated theta activity in voxels of the rACC, which may indicate less likelihood of depression and a higher likelihood of response to antidepressants. In conclusion, subtle EEG deviations, such as right-dominant central theta, alpha, and beta asymmetries and theta activity in the rACC may mark HIV-related depressive symptoms and may predict the likelihood of response to antidepressants but gender effects need to be taken into account. Although this study introduced the use of LORETA to examine the neurophysiological correlates of negative affect in PLWH, further research is needed to assess the utility of this tool in diagnostics and treatment monitoring of depression in PLWH.

Keywords: EEG; HIV; alpha; beta; depression; electroencephalogram; gender; interhemispheric asymmetry; low-resolution electrical tomographic analysis; rostral anterior cingulate cortex; theta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology*
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / physiopathology*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Tomography
  • Transgender Persons


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents