Structural connectome differences in HIV infection: brain network segregation associated with nadir CD4 cell count

J Neurovirol. 2018 Aug;24(4):454-463. doi: 10.1007/s13365-018-0634-4. Epub 2018 Apr 23.


This study investigated structural brain organization using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in 35 HIV-positive and 35 HIV-negative individuals. We used global and nodal graph theory metrics to investigate whether HIV was associated with differences in brain network organization based on fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD). Participants also completed a comprehensive neuropsychological testing battery. For global network metrics, HIV-positive individuals displayed a lower FA clustering coefficient relative to HIV-negative individuals. For nodal network metrics, HIV-positive individuals had less MD nodal degree in the left thalamus. Within HIV-positive individuals, the FA global clustering coefficient was positively correlated with nadir CD4 cell count. Across the sample, cognitive performance was negatively correlated with characteristic path length and positively correlated with global efficiency for FA. These results suggest that, despite management with combination antiretroviral therapy, HIV infection is associated with altered structural brain network segregation and thalamic centrality and that low nadir CD4 cell count may be a risk factor. These graph theory metrics may serve as neural biomarkers to identify individuals at risk for HIV-related neurological complications.

Keywords: Connectome; Graph theory; HIV; Structural connectivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count*
  • Connectome*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / pathology