BACKGROUND: Previous research has provided evidence for cognitive dysfunction as a common symptom of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In light of this, the primary goal of this study was to investigate how cognitive impairment in this patient group develops over time. In addition, the present dataset contributes to delineating the specific abilities that are impaired in SLE patients as well as answering the question whether the disease affects the cognition of SLE patients with neuropsychiatric manifestations (NPSLE) and without (non-NPSLE) in distinct ways.

METHODS: 91 female participants (33 NPSLE, 29 non-NPSLE, 29 healthy controls (HC)) underwent standardized neurocognitive testing. A total of ten different cognitive abilities were assessed, among others executive function, memory, and attention. Some of the participants (30 NPSLE patients, 22 non-NPSLE, 13 HC) were tested twice (mean time between testing sessions: 50 months) to enable longitudinal tracking of cognitive abilities. Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) were conducted to determine whether cognitive performance differed cross-sectionally between the groups. Linear mixed effects models were fit to investigate performance differences between the groups over time.

RESULTS: Cross-sectional analysis at follow-up demonstrated that the cognitive performance of both NPSLE and non-NPSLE was significantly lower than that of HC for the motor speed and the psychomotor speed domain. Additionally, NPSLE patients performed significantly weaker than HC in the complex attention domain. At the same time, the cross-sectional data did not yield any support for performance differences between NPSLE and non-NPSLE patients. Weak positive correlations between disease duration and psychomotor speed, motor speed and reaction time emerged. A temporal progression of cognitive dysfunction in SLE patients was not confirmed.

CONCLUSIONS: Cognitive performance is affected in both non-NPSLE and NPSLE patients. However, a linear decline in performance over time could not be verified. More in-depth longitudinal assessments of cognition in SLE patients are needed to establish how cognitive abilities in this patient population develop over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalBMC Rheumatology
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Rheumatology and Autoimmunity
  • Neurology


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