HIV dementia (HIVD) is among the most common and most feared neurological complications of AIDS. In vitro studies have identified a constellation of potentially neurotoxic inflammatory and non-inflammatory pathways, one or more of which could underlie HIVD. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies can distinguish between inflammatory and non-inflammatory pathways in vivo and suggest that either or both might be active in different patients or at different times in the same patient. This could perhaps explain the variability in HIVD development, progression and response to therapy. These findings also suggest that MRI and MRS can identify patients at risk for HIVD and predict response to therapy.