Current Psychiatry Reports

, 21:94 | Cite as

Sex Differences in Neurocognitive Function in Adults with HIV: Patterns, Predictors, and Mechanisms

  • Leah H. RubinEmail author
  • Gretchen N. Neigh
  • Erin E. Sundermann
  • Yanxun Xu
  • Eileen P. Scully
  • Pauline M. Maki
Sex and Gender Issues in Behavioral Health (CN Epperson and L Hantsoo, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Sex and Gender Issues in Behavioral Health


Purpose of Review

Sex differences in cognitive function are well documented yet few studies had adequate numbers of women and men living with HIV (WLWH; MLWH) to identify sex differences in neurocognitive impairment (NCI) and the factors contributing to NCI. Here, we review evidence that WLWH may be at greater risk for NCI.

Recent Findings

We conducted a systematic review of recent studies of NCI in WLWH versus MLWH. A power analysis showed that few HIV studies have sufficient power to address male/female differences in NCI but studies with adequate power find evidence of greater NCI in WLWH, particularly in the domains of memory, speed of information processing, and motor function.


Sex is an important determinant of NCI in HIV, and may relate to male/female differences in cognitive reserve, comorbidities (mental health and substance use disorders), and biological factors (e.g., inflammation, hormonal, genetic).


Sex differences Cognition Neurocognition HIV 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R01MH113512 (Rubin) and P30MH075773 (Haughey, Rubin, Sacktor).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

11920_2019_1089_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Leah H. Rubin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gretchen N. Neigh
    • 3
  • Erin E. Sundermann
    • 4
  • Yanxun Xu
    • 5
    • 6
  • Eileen P. Scully
    • 7
  • Pauline M. Maki
    • 8
    • 9
  1. 1.Department of Neurology and PsychiatryJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of EpidemiologyJohns Hopkins School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, School of MedicineVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  4. 4.School of MedicineUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  5. 5.Department of Applied Mathematics and StatisticsJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  6. 6.Division of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer CenterJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  7. 7.Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of MedicineJohns Hopkins School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  8. 8.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  9. 9.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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