Background: Selective memory deficits occur in individuals with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and those with chronic alcoholism, but the potential compounded effect of these conditions is seldom considered, despite the high prevalence of alcohol use disorders in HIV infection.
Methods: Here, we examined component processes of working and episodic memory in HIV infection and chronic alcoholism (ALC) in 4 subject groups (HIV, ALC, HIV + ALC, and normal controls) at baseline and 1-year follow-up. Accuracy scores, response times, and rate of information processing were assessed with subtests of the computerized neuropsychological test battery, the MicroCog.
Results: Although individuals with either HIV infection or alcoholism generally performed at normal levels, individuals comorbid with HIV infection and alcoholism were impaired relative to controls and to the single diagnosis groups on selective memory processes. Immediate episodic memory was impaired, whereas working memory remained intact. Ability to retain information over time was not impaired in the clinical groups. Little performance change between groups was detected over 1 year. Results could not be explained by amount of alcohol consumed over a lifetime, CD4 cell count, AIDS diagnosis, or HAART medication.
Conclusions: This study provides behavioral support for adverse synergism of HIV infection and chronic alcoholism on brain function and is consistent with neuroimaging reports of compromised hippocampal and associated memory structures related to episodic memory processes in these 2 conditions.