HIV infection can cause direct and indirect damage to the brain and is consistently associated with neurocognitive disorders, including impairments in decision-making capacities. The tendency to devalue rewards that are delayed (temporal discounting) is relevant to a range of health risk behaviors. Making choices about delayed rewards engages the executive control network of the brain, which has been found to be affected by HIV. In this case-control study of 18 HIV-positive and 17 HIV-negative adults, we examined the effects of HIV on brain activation during a temporal discounting task. Functional MRI (fMRI) data were collected while participants made choices between smaller, sooner rewards and larger, delayed rewards. Choices were individualized based on participants' unique discount functions, so each participant experienced hard (similarly valued), easy (disparately valued), and control choices. fMRI data were analyzed using a mixed-effects model to identify group-related differences associated with choice difficulty. While there was no difference between groups in behavioral performance, the HIV-positive group demonstrated significantly larger increases in activation within left parietal regions and bilateral prefrontal regions during easy trials and within the right prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate during hard trials. Increasing activation within the prefrontal regions was associated with lower nadir CD4 cell count and risk-taking propensity. These results support the hypothesis that HIV infection can alter brain functioning in regions that support decision making, providing further evidence for HIV-associated compensatory activation within fronto-parietal cortices. A history of immunosuppression may contribute to these brain changes. Hum Brain Mapp 37:2455-2467, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Keywords: HIV; decision making; executive function; functional magnetic resonance imaging; temporal discounting.
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.