There has been much debate about the exact nature and time of onset of the cognitive impairments associated with infection by the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). Studies to date have not reached consistent conclusions. The present study comprised 22 asymptomatic and 18 symptomatic HIV-1 seropositive men, whose only risk factor for contraction of the virus was sexual intercourse, and 18 seronegative controls matched for age and IQ. Subjects were given computerized neuropsychological tests from the CANTAB battery, which assessed visuospatial memory, attention and executive function. Both the asymptomatic and the symptomatic HIV-1 seropositive subjects showed a selective pattern of deficits relative to the controls. In addition, the seropositive subjects were subtly but significantly impaired on tests of executive function but unimpaired on certain tests of visual memory. This finding supports an hypothesis that frontostriatal dysfunction occurs in HIV-1 infected individuals prior even to the expression of clinical symptoms.