October 17, 2012
A new study by researchers, published online in the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, demonstrates that cognitive training exercises can improve mental processing speed and the ability to complete daily tasks in middle-age and older individuals with HIV. With more effective antiretroviral therapies for HIV/AIDS that have evolved, the disease has shifted to more of a chronic condition. As patients are living longer, research indicates they are experiencing cognitive impairments at a higher rate than those without HIV/AIDS. The study's lead author, David Vance, Ph.D., associate professor at the UAB School of Nursing, associate director of the UAB Center for Nursing Research, and scientist at the UAB Edward R. Roybal Center for Research on Applied Gerontology, notes that more than 25 percent of those living with HIV today are over the age of 50. In addition, "30 to 60 percent of adults living with HIV experience cognitive problems at some point in the illness, a condition known as 'HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders.'" He further states that it is extremely important to address these problems as they occur since they can lead to difficulties in functioning independently.
In the pilot study conducted at UAB, 46 middle-age and older individuals with HIV were randomly assigned to either 10 hours of computerized cognitive training or to no cognitive training. The training involved "speed of processing," referring to how quickly an individual can automatically perform simple tasks such as absorbing information, comprehending relationships, and developing reasonable conclusions that require attention and concentration without having to think them through. Researchers measured the cognitive function of the groups before and after the study. The group that performed computer-based training demonstrated significant improvement in visual processing speed and attention as well as timed instrumental activities of daily living as opposed to the group that did not have the computer-based training.
According to Ned Guiliano, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation, most Americans with HIV will be over 50 by 2015, and this represents an important pilot study that encourages further research into the role cognitive function can play in "achieving better long-term outcomes for older adults with HIV."