Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Decline in working memory associated with HIV infection

J. C. Stouta1 c1, D. P. Salmona1, N. Buttersa1, M. Taylora1, G. Peavya1, W. C. Heindela1, D. C. Delisa1, L. Ryana1, J. H. Atkinsona1, J. L. Chandlera1, I. Granta1 and the HNRC Groupa1

a1 San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego; Department of Psychology, San Diego State University; Department of Psychology, Brown University; the Naval Medical Center, San Diego, USA


HIV infection has been associated with decline in a number of cognitive functions that are components of ‘working memory’. Thus, tests of working memory that require the interaction of these components may be particularly sensitive to cognitive dysfunction that arises from HIV infection. To assess this possibility, working memory was examined in 147 HIV-seropositive (HIV+) and 38 HIV-seronegative (HIV−) males using the Reading Span Test and the Digit Span subtest from the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (WMS-R). Speed of information processing, a component of some working memory tasks, was assessed with a version of the Sternberg Memory Scanning task. Results indicated that symptomatic HIV+ subjects were impaired relative to HIV− control subjects on the Reading Span and Digit Span tests. Asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic HIV+ groups exhibited a trend toward impairment on these tests, and on the whole, a greater proportion of HIV+ subjects than HIV− subjects were impaired. The groups did not differ significantly in information processing speed. These results indicate that deficits in working memory are apparent in at least a subset of HIV-infected individuals. These deficits are most apparent in symptomatic HIV+ individuals, but the decline may begin during the asymptomatic phase of infection.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Julie C. Stout, Department of Psychology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.