Functional MRI and delay discounting in patients infected with hepatitis C

Holly McCready, Milky Kohno, Michael Kolessar, Laura Dennis, Daniel Kriz, Hannah Luber, Renee Anderson, Michael Chang, Anna Sasaki, Kenneth Flora, Arthur Vandenbark, Suzanne H. Mitchell, Jennifer M. Loftis, William F. Hoffman, Marilyn Huckans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Hepatitis C virus-infected (HCV+) adults evidence increased rates of psychiatric and cognitive difficulties. This is the first study to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain activation in untreated HCV+ adults. To determine whether, relative to non-infected controls (CTLs), HCV+ adults exhibit differences in brain activation during a delay discounting task (DDT), a measure of one’s tendency to choose smaller immediate rewards over larger delayed rewards—one aspect of impulsivity. Twenty adults with HCV and 26 CTLs completed an fMRI protocol during the DDT. Mixed effects regression analyses of hard versus easy trials of the DDT showed that, compared with CTLs, the HCV+ group exhibited less activation in the left lateral occipital gyrus, precuneus, and superior frontal gyrus. There were also significant interactive effects for hard–easy contrasts in the bilateral medial frontal gyrus, left insula, left precuneus, left inferior parietal lobule, and right temporal occipital gyrus; the CTL group evidenced a positive relationship between impulsivity and activation, while the HCV+ group exhibited a negative relationship. Within the HCV+ group, those with high viral load chose immediate rewards more often than those with low viral load, regardless of choice difficulty; those with low viral load chose immediate rewards more often on hard choices relative to easy choices. Results show that HCV+ patients exhibit greater impulsive behavior when presented with difficult choices, and impulsivity is negatively related to activation in regions important for cognitive control. Thus, interventions that decrease impulsive choice may be warranted with some HCV+ patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-751
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurovirology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Cognition
  • Delay discounting
  • Hepatitis
  • Impulsivity
  • Neuroimaging
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Virology


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