Cerebral metabolite abnormalities in human immunodeficiency virus are associated with cortical and subcortical volumes

Ronald A. Cohen, Jaroslaw Harezlak, Assawin Gongvatana, Steven Buchthal, Giovanni Schifitto, Uraina Clark, Robert Paul, Michael Taylor, Paul Thompson, David Tate, Jeffery Alger, Mark Brown, Jianhui Zhong, Thomas Campbell, Elyse Singer, Eric Daar, Deborah McMahon, Yuen Tso, Constantin T. Yiannoutsos, Bradford Navia

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Cerebral metabolite disturbances occur among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected people, and are thought to reflect neuropathology, including proinflammatory processes, and neuronal loss. HIV-associated cortical atrophy continues to occur, though its basis is not well understood, and the relationship of cerebral metabolic disturbance to structural brain abnormalities in HIV has not been well delineated. We hypothesized that metabolite disturbances would be associated with reduced cortical and subcortical volumes. Cerebral volumes were measured in 67 HIV-infected people, including 10 people with mild dementia (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS] dimentia complex [ADC] stage >1) via automated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) segmentation. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) was used to measure levels of cerebral metabolites N-acetylaspartate (NAA), myo-inositol (MI), choline-containing compounds (Cho), glutamate/glutamine (Glx), and creatine (Cr) from three brain regions (frontal gray matter, frontal white matter, basal ganglia). Analyses were conducted to examine the associations between MRS and cerebral volumetric measures using both absolute and relative metabolite concentrations. NAA in the mid-frontal gray matter was most consistently associated with cortical (global, frontal, and parietal), ventricular, and caudate volumes based on analysis of absolute metabolite levels, whereas temporal lobe volume was associated with basal ganglia NAA and Glx, and Cho concentrations in the frontal cortex and basal ganglia. Hippocampal volume was associated with frontal white matter NAA, whereas thalamic volume was associated with both frontal white matter NAA and basal ganglia Glx. Analyses of relative metabolite concentrations (referenced to Cr) yielded weaker effects, although more metabolites were retained as significant predictors in the models than the analysis of absolute concentrations. These findings demonstrate that reduced cortical and subcortical volumes, which have been previously found to be linked to HIV status and history, are also strongly associated with the degree of cerebral metabolite disturbance observed via MRS. Reduced cortical and hippocampal volumes were most strongly associated with decreased NAA, though reduced Glx also tended to be associated with reduced cortical and subcortical volumes (caudate and thalamus) as well, suggesting both neuronal and glial disturbances. Interestingly, metabolite-volumetric relationships were not limited to the cortical region from which MRS was measured, possibly reflecting shared pathophysiological processes. The relationships between Cho and volumetric measures suggest a complicated relationship possibly related to the effects of inflammatory processes on brain volume. The findings demonstrate the relationship between MRI-derived measures of cerebral metabolite disturbances and structural brain integrity, which has implication in understanding HIV-associated neuropathological mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of NeuroVirology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • brain
  • cerebral metabolites
  • cortical volume
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • morphometry
  • subcortical volume


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