To compare temporal order memory in older adults with and without human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
The frontal and temporal lobes play a key role in temporal order memory for items in a sequence. HIV-associated episodic memory deficits correlate with damage to neocortical interneurons in the fronto-striato-thalamo-cortical pathway and with atypical activation of the medial temporal lobes. Therefore, temporal order memory may be sensitive to neuropathological changes in individuals with HIV.
In this study, 50 HIV-seropositive individuals aged ≥50 years and 50 seronegative controls performed a computerized visuospatial temporal order memory task. During the sample phase of each trial, participants were shown circles presented 1 at a time in a random sequence at the end of each of the 8 arms of a radial maze. During the choice phase, they were shown the maze with a circle at the ends of 2 of the arms and asked which circle had appeared earlier than the other in the original sequence.
Performance in both groups improved as a function of greater temporal separation between circle presentations. However, the HIV group had significantly worse memory impairment across all temporal separations, and the impairment was independently associated with clinical deficits in executive function and delayed retrospective memory.
Our results extend prior findings that HIV is associated with deficits in strategic aspects of memory encoding and retrieval. The neural mechanisms warrant further research, as do potential impacts on everyday function, eg, adherence to antiretroviral drug regimens.