Journal Article

Changes in Executive Function Following a Stressful Interpersonal Task Are Associated With Condomless Anal Intercourse Among Men Who Have Sex With Men

David M Huebner, Larissa A McGarrity, Timothy W Smith, Nicholas S Perry and Yana Suchy

in Annals of Behavioral Medicine

Volume 52, issue 5, pages 406-411
ISSN: 0883-6612
Published online February 2018 | e-ISSN: 1532-4796 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/abm/kax020

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Abstract

Background

Executive functioning (EF) describes a set of neurocognitive processes critical to enacting complex health behaviors. However, theoretical frameworks for understanding sexual risk behavior have generally neglected neurocognitive constructs, and beyond a few studies of individuals selected for high substance use, the literature contains virtually no research on this topic with other adults at risk for HIV infection, such as men who have sex with men (MSM).

Purpose

This study tested whether EF was associated with condomless anal intercourse (CAI) among MSM.

Methods

Seventy MSM completed cognitive tests assessing EF at two time points—baseline, and approximately 30 min later after engaging in a stressful interpersonal task. Men also reported their sexual behaviors over the past 3 months, including the frequency of CAI.

Results

Baseline EF was unrelated to CAI. However, CAI was associated with the degree to which performance improved from baseline to post-stressor administration. Compared with norms for practice effects, men who reported CAI improved less than expected from baseline to post-stressor EF performance, whereas men who reported no CAI exhibited a more normative practice effect.

Conclusions

MSM with histories of greater sexual risk improved less than anticipated from baseline to post-stressor on tests of EF, suggesting that they might be more cognitively depleted by the stressful interpersonal task they engaged in between administrations. It is possible that certain individuals struggle to maintain executive control in stressful interpersonal situations, a finding that could contribute to the difficulty some individuals face executing precautionary behaviors during a sexual encounter.

Keywords: Gay and bisexual men; HIV; Sexual risk behavior; Executive function; Neurocognition

Journal Article.  3974 words. 

Subjects: Medicine and Health ; Patient Education and Information ; Primary Care ; Public Health and Epidemiology

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