Neural correlates of working memory training in HIV patients: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonTrials. 2016, 17:62 . 10.1186/s13063-016-1160-4
Background Potent combined antiretroviral therapy decreased the incidence and severity of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND); however, no specific effective pharmacotherapy exists for HAND. Patients with HIV commonly have deficits in working memory and attention, which may negatively impact many other cognitive domains, leading to HAND. Since HAND may lead to loss of independence in activities of daily living and negative emotional well-being, and incur a high economic burden, effective treatments for HAND are urgently needed. This study aims to determine whether adaptive working memory training might improve cognitive functions and neural network efficiency and possibly decrease neuroinflammation. This study also aims to assess whether subjects with the LMX1A-rs4657412 TT(AA) genotype show greater training effects from working memory training than TC(AG) or CC(GG)-carriers. Methods/Design 60 HIV-infected and 60 seronegative control participants will be randomized to a double-blind active-controlled study, using adaptive versus non-adaptive Cogmed Working Memory Training® (CWMT), 20–25 sessions over 5–8 weeks. Each subject will be assessed with near- and far-transfer cognitive tasks, self-reported mood and executive function questionnaires, and blood-oxygenation level-dependent functional MRI during working memory (n-back) and visual attention (ball tracking) tasks, at baseline, 1-month, and 6-months after CWMT. Furthermore, genotyping for LMX1A-rs4657412 will be performed to identify whether subjects with the TT(AA)-genotype show greater gain or neural efficiency after CWMT than those with other genotypes. Lastly, cerebrospinal fluid will be obtained before and after CWMT to explore changes in levels of inflammatory proteins (cytokines and chemokines) and monoamines. Discussion Improving working memory in HIV patients, using CWMT, might slow the progression or delay the onset of HAND. Observation of decreased brain activation or normalized neural networks, using fMRI, after CWMT would lead to a better understanding of how neural networks are modulated by CWMT. Moreover, validating the greater training gain in subjects with the LMX1A-TT(AA) genotype could lead to a personalized approach for future working memory training studies. Demonstrating and understanding the neural correlates of the efficacy of CWMT in HIV patients could lead to a safe adjunctive therapy for HAND, and possibly other brain disorder.