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Brain Nerve. 2013 Apr;65(4):365-76.

[Hashimoto's encephalopathy and autoantibodies].

[Article in Japanese]

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Department of Neurology, University of Fukui Hospital, Japan.


Encephalopathy occasionally occurs in association with thyroid disorders, but most of these are treatable. These encephalopathies include a neuropsychiatric disorder associated with hypothyroidism, called myxedema encephalopathy. Moreover, Hashimoto's encephalopathy (HE) has been recognized as a new clinical disease based on an autoimmune mechanism associated with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Steroid treatment was successfully administered to these patients. Recently, we discovered that the serum autoantibodies against the NH2-terminal of α-enolase (NAE) are highly specific diagnostic biomarkers for HE. Further, we analyzed serum anti-NAE autoantibodies and the clinical features in many cases of HE from institutions throughout Japan and other countries. Approximately half of assessed HE patients carry anti-NAE antibodies. The age was widely distributed with 2 peaks (20-30 years and 50-70 years). Most HE patients were in euthyroid states, and all patients had anti-thyroid (TG) antibodies and anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies. Anti-TSH receptor (TSH-R) antibodies were observed in some cases. The common neuropsychiatry features are consciousness disturbance and psychosis, followed by cognitive dysfunction, involuntary movements, seizures, and ataxia. Abnormalities on electroencephalography (EEG) and decreased cerebral blood flow on brain SPECT were common findings, whereas abnormal findings on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were rare. HE patients have various clinical phenotypes such as the acute encephalopathy form, the chronic psychiatric form, and other particular clinical forms, including limbic encephalitis, progressive cerebellar ataxia, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)-like form. The cerebellar ataxic form of HE clinically mimics spinocerebellar degeneration (SCD) and is characterized by the absence of nystagmus, absent or mild cerebellar atrophy, and lazy background activities on EEG. Taken together, these data suggest that the possibility of encephalopathy associated with thyroid disorders must be considered.

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