Alex Steiner

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Charles Mactutus


Individuals with HIV-1 taking combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) live longer with less morbidity associated with the infection. The increase in lifespan has created a critical need for the deterrence of HIV-1 associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) reported in the aging population. Previous reports indicate that the HIV-1 infection may cause impairment in neurogenesis, leading to many of the cognitive deficits seen. The current paper proposes that exercise, as defined by voluntary wheel running, would be a potent inducer of neurogenesis that results in the neuro-restoration of CNS properties and cognitive functioning. Each animal had free access to 11-hour nocturnal wheel-running seven days a week for forty-two days. Prior to running, animals were tested in a spontaneous alternation Y-maze task and three variations of a Prepulse inhibition task. The animals were then re-tested bi-weekly for a total of four testing periods. Running pattern behavior suggests variability in motivation among the HIV-1 population. An increased and failed trial in the Y-maze along with differential latency in goal arm choosing also indicated motivational changes that occurred prior to and following wheel running treatment. Complementary spine morphology and dendritic complexity changes in the hippocampus indicate a profound difference in the HIV-1 animals, with sex as a mediation of the changes. The overall results suggest that voluntary wheel running has profound central nervous system changes but needs more robust data to determine behavioral effects.


© 2021, Alex Steiner