Effects of anti-viral therapy and HCV clearance on cerebral metabolism and cognition

Valerie Byrnes, Anne Miller, Damien Lowry, Erin Hill, Cheryl Weinstein, David Alsop, Robert Lenkinski, Nezam H. Afdhal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is associated with altered cerebral metabolism and cognitive dysfunction. We aimed to evaluate the effect of pegylated interferon/ribavirin (PIFN/R) and HCV clearance on cerebral metabolism, and neuropsychological performance. Methods: Fifteen non-cirrhotic HCV positive subjects underwent 1H MR spectroscopy (MRS) before, during, and after treatment with PIFN/R. The metabolites of interest namely, N-acetylaspartate (NAA), choline (Cho), myo-inositol (MI), and the control metabolite creatine (Cr), were acquired from 3 different brain regions; left basal ganglia, left frontal cortex, and left dorso-lateral pre-frontal cortex. Coinciding with this, subjects also underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests to evaluate the domains of verbal learning, memory, attention, language, executive functioning, and motor skills. Seven HCV positive controls (not receiving anti-viral therapy) underwent MRS and neuropsychological testing at two time points, 12 weeks apart, to examine for variation in cerebral metabolites over time and the practice effect of repeat neuropsychological testing. Results: Significant reductions in basal ganglia Cho/Cr (p = 0.03) and basal ganglia MI/Cr (p = 0.03) were observed in sustained virological responders (SVRs, n = 8), but not non-responders/relapsers (NR/R, n = 6), indicative of reduced cerebral infection and/or immune activation in those who cleared virus. SVRs demonstrated significant improvements in verbal learning, memory, and visuo-spatial memory. A small but significant improvement in neurocognitive function secondary to the practice effect was seen in both HCV controls and HCV subjects during treatment. Conclusions: HCV eradication has a beneficial effect on cerebral metabolism and selective aspects of neurocognitive function and is an important factor when contemplating anti-viral therapy in HCV, especially in those with mild disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-556
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Combination treatment
  • H MRS
  • HCV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Immune activation
  • Metabolite abnormalities
  • Neuropsychological
  • Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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