Neuroimaging the Neuropathogenesis of HIV

Curr HIV/AIDS Rep. 2021 Jun;18(3):221-228. doi: 10.1007/s11904-021-00548-z. Epub 2021 Feb 25.


Purpose of review: This review highlights neuroimaging studies of HIV conducted over the last 2 years and discusses how relevant findings further our knowledge of the neuropathology of HIV. Three major avenues of neuroimaging research are covered with a particular emphasis on inflammation, aging, and substance use in persons living with HIV (PLWH).

Recent findings: Neuroimaging has been a critical tool for understanding the neuropathological underpinnings observed in HIV. Recent studies comparing levels of neuroinflammation in PLWH and HIV-negative controls show inconsistent results but report an association between elevated neuroinflammation and poorer cognition in PLWH. Other recent neuroimaging studies suggest that older PLWH are at increased risk for brain and cognitive compromise compared to their younger counterparts. Finally, recent findings also suggest that the effects of HIV may be exacerbated by alcohol and drug abuse. These neuroimaging studies provide insight into the structural, functional, and molecular changes occurring in the brain due to HIV. HIV triggers a strong neuroimmune response and may lead to a cascade of events including increased chronic inflammation and cognitive decline. These outcomes are further exacerbated by age and age-related comorbidities, as well as lifestyle factors such as drug use/abuse.

Keywords: Aging; HIV; Inflammation; Neuroimaging; Substance use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / complications