PET Assisted HIV Dementia Mechanism Discovery

HIV infection is frequently complicated by CNS dysfunction that manifests predominantly as subcortical dementia.

The Science

Using positron emission tomography (PET), scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered a key mechanism in the brains of people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) dementia. They provide evidence of dopamine terminal injury, specifically injury to dopamine transporters, in HIV dementia patients. HIV patients with associated dementia (HAD), but not those without dementia (ND) had significantly lower dopamine transporter availability. The study is the first to document decreases in the neurotransmitter dopamine in those with the condition, and may lead to new, more effective therapies. HIV dementia is a type of cognitive decline that is more common in the later stages of HIV infection.

Principal Investigator

Gene-Jack Wang
Brookhaven National Laboratory

BER Program Manager

Paul Sammak

U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Biological Systems Science Division
[email protected]


Wang, G.-J., L. Chang, N. D. Volkow, F. Telang, J. Logan, T. Ernst, and J. S. Fowler. 2004. “Decreased Brain Dopaminergic Transporters in HIV-Associated Dementia Patients,” Brain 127(11), 2452–58. DOI:10.1093/brain/awh269.