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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e28373. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028373. Epub 2012 Jan 26.

White matter correlates of neuropsychological dysfunction in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America.


Patients diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus have similar levels of neuropsychological dysfunction (i.e., 20-50%) as those with Neuropsychiatric Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (NPSLE). We hypothesized a gradient between cognition and white matter integrity, such that strongest brain-behavior relationships would emerge in NPSLE, intermediate in non-NPSLE, and minimal in controls. We studied thirty-one patients (16 non-NPSLE; 15 NPSLE), ranging in age from 18 to 59 years old (100% female), and eighteen age and gender matched healthy controls. DTI examinations were performed on a 1.5T scanner. A broad neuropsychological battery was administered, tapping attention, memory, processing speed, and executive functioning. The Total z-score consisted of the combined sum of all neuropsychological measures. In control subjects, we found no significant FA-Total z-score correlations. NPSLE, non-NPSLE, and control subjects differed significantly in terms of Total z-score (NPSLE = -2.25+/-1.77, non-NPSLE = -1.22+/-1.03, Controls = -0.10+/-.57; F = 13.2, p<.001). In non-NPSLE subjects, FA within the right external capsule was significantly correlated with Total z-score. In NPSLE subjects, the largest FA-Total z-score clusters were observed within the left anterior thalamic radiation and right superior longitudinal fasciculus. In subsequent analyses the largest number of significant voxels linked FA with the Processing Speed z-score in NPSLE. The current results reflect objective white matter correlates of neuropsychological dysfunction in both NPSLE and (to a lesser degree) in non-NPSLE. non-NPSLE and NPSLE subjects did not differ significantly in terms of depression, as measured by the GDI; thus, previous hypotheses suggesting moderating effects of depression upon neuropsychological performance do not impact the current FA results.

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