Objective: To directly examine the relationship between magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities and neuropathologic changes in the brains of patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
Design: A total of 17 brains from patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome for which postmortem MRI scans were available were used in this study. Volumes of cortical gray matter, deep gray matter, and abnormal white matter were estimated from the MRIs of the left hemispheres of the formalin-fixed brains from patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome using quantitative morphometric techniques. Quantitative estimates of human immunodeficiency virus, gliosis, and neocortical synaptic and dendritic density were obtained from the corresponding right hemispheres. Quantification of human immunodeficiency virus and gliosis was performed on all 17 specimens, while quantification of synaptic and dendritic density was performed on 10 of the 17 specimens.
Setting: All specimens were obtained from patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome who underwent autopsy between 1990 and 1992 at the University of California-San Diego Medical Center and the San Diego (Calif) Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Results: No association was found between MRI volumes and gliosis, a nonspecific marker of central nervous system damage. Significant and regionally specific relationships were obtained, however, between the severity of central nervous system human immunodeficiency virus infection and the MRI volume estimates of gray matter and abnormal white matter. In addition, a significant association was observed between cortical gray matter volumes and cortical synaptic density.
Conclusion: These findings indicate that the quantitative morphometric analysis of MRIs in patients may provide sensitive in vivo markers of neuropathologic changes associated with human immunodeficiency virus infection of the brain.