Cynthia Aranow, MD, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

"Pet Scan Imaging of Cognitive and Emotional Abnormalities in SLE"

2009 Neuropsychiatric Lupus Research Grant

Cognitive dysfunction (difficulties with memory, learning and attention) and emotional abnormalities (anxiety and mood disorders) occur commonly in patients with lupus and contribute to a reduced quality of life. Before effective treatments can be developed and tested for these morbidities, a greater understanding of the causes of these features and sensitive and reliable assessments that will detect changes over time are needed. Many manifestations of lupus result from the actions of autoantibodies, antibodies directed against the self. Antibodies against the NMDA receptor (anti-NR2 antibodies) are found in 30-50% of lupus patients. These antibodies have been shown in animal models to cause death of neurons (brain cells) in areas of the brain that are associated with memory and emotional reactions. This study will use specialized imaging of the brain, (PET scans with MRI scans) to study lupus patients with longstanding lupus and patients with recent onset disease. Since patients who are antibody positive with long disease duration will have had a greater exposure to the antibody than patients with lupus for short periods of time, this study will provide information regarding a potential role of anti-NR2 antibodies in these neuropyschiatric manifestations of SLE in humans. This study may also lead to better methods to evaluate neuropsychiatric features of lupus and new targets for treatment of these conditions.