In women living with HIV (WLWH), a single low dose of hydrocortisone (LDH) appears to enhance cognitive performance even after cortisol levels return to normal, a small trial published in AIDS showed.
Thirty-six WLWH were randomized to LDH or placebo, and a month later were switched to the opposite treatment. At both visits, participants were tested on various cognitive measures 30 minutes and four hours, respectively, after receiving the study pill.
In participants who had received LDH, verbal learning and delayed memory were improved at both time points, while visuospatial abilities and behavioral inhibition were only enhanced at the 30-minute mark. A similar, separate study among men had found learning improvements only after 30 minutes.
Larger studies verifying these findings and their clinical significance in HIV are ongoing. The four-hour results suggest improvements are maintained beyond the time during which cortisol levels are elevated, study authors said.
The researchers also noted that study participants reported above-average levels of stress and trauma. The benefits of LDH -- which has also been studied in people with post-traumatic stress disorder -- may be related to these psychological characteristics, rather than HIV, the researchers explained.