Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Research Article

Delayed recognition memory span in HIV-1 infection

Eileen M. Martina1a3, David L. Pitraka2a3, Kenneth J. Pursella2a3, Kathleen M. Mullanea2a3 and Richard M. Novaka2a3

a1 Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60612

a2 Department of Medicine-Section of Infectious Disease, University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60612

a3 Veterans Affairs Medical Center-West Side, Chicago, Illinois 60612


We administered a spatial version of the Delayed Recognition Span Test (DRST), a working memory task performed abnormally by patients with basal ganglia disease, to a group of 96 HIV-seropositive and 83 seronegative subjects with a high prevalence of substance abuse. For comparison purposes, we also administered the Symbol-Digit Modalities Test (SDMT) and the Trail Making Test (TMT), measures which detect HIV-related mental slowing efficiently in gay men but are nonspecifically impaired in subjects with a history of substance abuse. As predicted, scores on the TMT and the SDMT did not discriminate the groups, but HIV-seropositive subjects had significantly shorter spatial spans (p < .007) and DRST total scores (p < .005). These effects could not be attributed to differences in age, education, estimated intelligence, or psychological distress, because the groups were well matched on these variables. The DRST is a promising measure of HIV-related cognitive dysfunction in substance abusers, who are often nonspecifically impaired on psychomotor tasks. These preliminary data also indicate that working memory function should be studied further in HIV-seropositive subjects. (JINS, 1995, 1, 575–580.)

(Received March 22 1995)

(Accepted June 01 1995)


Reprint requests to: Eileen Martin, Department of Psychiatry (M/C 913), University of Illinois, 912 S. Wood Street, Chicago, IL 60612; or e-mail