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Association of cognitive function and liability to addiction with childhood herpesvirus infections: A prospective cohort study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 April 2017

Michael M. Vanyukov
University of Pittsburgh
Vishwajit L. Nimgaonkar
University of Pittsburgh
Levent Kirisci
University of Pittsburgh
Galina P. Kirillova
University of Pittsburgh
Maureen D. Reynolds
University of Pittsburgh
Konasale Prasad
University of Pittsburgh
Ralph E. Tarter
University of Pittsburgh
Robert H. Yolken
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
E-mail address:


Liability to substance use disorder (SUD) is largely nonspecific to particular drugs and is related to behavior dysregulation, including reduced cognitive control. Recent data suggest that cognitive mechanisms may be influenced by exposure to neurotropic infections, such as human herpesviruses. In this study, serological evidence of exposure to human herpesvirus Herpes simplex virus Type 1 (HSV-1), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) as well as Toxoplasma gondii was determined in childhood (age ~11 years) in 395 sons and 174 daughters of fathers with or without SUD. Its relationships with a cognitive characteristic (IQ) in childhood and with risk for SUD in adulthood were examined using correlation, regression, survival, and path analyses. Exposure to HSV-1, EBV, and T. gondii in males and females, and CMV in males, was associated with lower IQ. Independent of that relationship, EBV in females and possibly in males, and CMV and possibly HSV-1 in females were associated with elevated risk for SUD. Therefore, childhood neurotropic infections may influence cognitive development and risk for behavior disorders such as SUD. The results may point to new avenues for alleviating cognitive impairment and SUD risk.

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This study was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant P50DA005605, Stanley Medical Research Institute Grant 07R-1712, and National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH63480. The authors are indebted to the staff of the Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research, particularly laboratory assistants Kathleen A. Hartle and Senthil Thillainathan, for their effort and dedication. The authors have no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.


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