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Different lines of evidence suggest that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is complicated by a variety of adverse effects on neuroendocrine systems. Soon after the discovery of HIV-1, reports began to appear suggesting that a number of neurotransmitter and neuroendocrine activities were negatively impacted by this infection. In 1987 it was observed that fine-needle aspiration of the lung in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome resulted in syncopal reactions. Subsequently, an abnormality in the autonomic nervous system was reported in these patients. However, investigations in this area have remained limited due to the assumption that HIV-1–mediated activation of various endocrine systems was related to the major life stressor of living with a fatal disease. Evidence accumulated over the years has indicated, instead, that there are various other mechanisms in addition to life stressors that also play an important role in negatively impacting the neuroendocrine systems in this infection. This article examines various developments that have taken place in this area in order to provide avenues for future research.
There is a paucity of data regarding Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients' longitudinal deterioration in the ability to conduct numerous activities required for daily living. In this study, 52 patients with AD were assessed at baseline and at a 1-year follow-up using the Direct Assessment of Functional Status (DAFS) scale, an objective, well-validated measure of a broad spectrum of functional capacities that is administered within the clinical setting. An important finding was that the level of initial performance on each of the 11 functional tasks measured did not related to the degree of functional decline in that particular area. Communication skills, such as using the telephone (deterioration among 35.4% of the patients) and preparing a letter for mailing (deterioration among 32.7%), showed the most frequent deterioration among patients upon follow-up. More than half of the AD patients studied demonstrated impairment on one or both of these measures. The pattern of findings indicates that many subtests of the DAFS were sensitive to functional decline after a 1-year period and that the scale has utility in objectively establishing longitudinal patterns of deterioration.
In 42 patients with cognitive dysfunction (senile dementia) significant correlations between immunoglobulins and various tests of intelligence were observed. Serum IgG emerged as the single best predictor of behavioural status. There is need for further research in this field.
Fifty-seven cognitively impaired elderly had significantly elevated serum IgG (P $0.005) and IgA (P $0.01) levels and similar IgM levels, compared to a population of 65 elderly matched for age and sex, who did not manifest cognitive impairment. These findings are compatible with a current hypothesis that immunological factors may be important in the cognitive disorders observed with increasing frequency among the aged.
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