Research Topic: Over 110,000 HIV Ugandan children are at risk for neurocognitive disorders due to the progressive encephalopathy of CNS HIV infection. Even if clinically stable, these children can have motor, attention, memory, visual-spatial processing, and other executive function impairment. One-hundred and fifty school-age children with HIV in Kayunga District, Uganda, will serve as our participants. Fifty of these children will be randomly selected to receive 24 training sessions of a computerized cognitive rehabilitation therapy (CCRT) program called Captain's Log, marketed mostly for American children with attention or learning problems. A locked version of Captain's Log which does not direct the child's training in a progressive manner will be administered to a second "active control" group;while a third group will be a passive control group not receiving any computer training intervention.
Study Aim 1 : To compare the neuropsychological benefit of 24 training sessions of Captain's Log CCRT to the active and passive control groups over a 8-week period, and at 3-month follow-up.
Study Aim 2 : To compare the psychiatric benefit of 24 training sessions of Captain's Log CCRT to the active and passive control groups over an 8-week period, and at 3-month follow-up.
Study Aim 3 : To evaluate how HIV subtype, ART treatment status, and the corresponding clinical stability of the child modifies CCRT neuropsychological performance gains and psychiatric symptom reduction. Outcome Assessments: The Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, 2nd ed. (KABC-2), Tests of Variables of Attention (TOVA) visual and auditory tests, CogState computerized neuropsychological screening test, Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (BOT-2), and Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) will be administered before and after the 8-week training period and at 3-month follow-up. We have previously used all these assessments with Ugandan children with HIV to effectively evaluate neuropsychological and psychiatric problems. Captain's Log has an internal evaluator feature which will help us monitor the specific training tasks to which the children best respond. Based on our prior research with Kayunga children with HIV, we anticipate that about 40% of our sample will be on ART at study enrollment, and about 20% will be Subtype D while 60% will be subtype A. We also observed that children with HIV Subtype A are at greater risk for neurocognitive deficits. Analyses: We will compare neuropsychological and psychiatric gains over the 8-week training period and at 3-mo follow-up for our three study groups, anticipating that they will be significantly greater for the CCRT intervention children (Study Aims 1 &2). These neuropsychological gains will be associated with improved school performance over the long-term. Intervention children on ART will have greater gains than those not on ART, and HIV subtype D children will have lower viral loads and higher lymphocyte activation levels, resulting in greater gains from CCRT (Study Aim 3). Conclusion: CCRT will prove effective and sustainable in potentiating the neurocognitive benefit of ART in HIV children. It will prove viable for assessing and treating children in resource-poor settings.
Beyond the direct neurodevelopmental impact of pediatric HIV infection, the public health burden of HIV disease for tens of millions of HIV children and orphans globally is monumental when considering how it further compromises quality of home environment and educational opportunity for children already impoverished. If computerized cognitive training proves practical and effective for enhancing neuropsychological function and psychiatric well-being in HIV children, then this would support the second of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which is to ensure that all children have the best opportunity to complete primary schooling. Computerized cognitive training and assessment might also allow for cost/effective interventions in resource poor settings throughout the developing world where special education or medical rehabilitative care by trained professionals are not available.
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