Cognitive impact of neuronal antibodies: encephalitis and beyond

LL Gibson, A McKeever, E Coutinho, C Finke and TA Pollak

Cognitive dysfunction is a common feature of autoimmune encephalitis. Pathogenic neuronal surface antibodies are thought to mediate distinct profiles of cognitive impairment in both the acute and chronic phases of encephalitis. In this review, we describe the cognitive impairment associated with each antibody-mediated syndrome and, using evidence from imaging and animal studies, examine how the nature of the impairment relates to the underlying neuroimmunological and receptor-based mechanisms. Neuronal surface antibodies, particularly serum NMDA receptor antibodies, are also found outside of encephalitis although the clinical significance of this has yet to be fully determined. We discuss evidence highlighting their prevalence, and association with cognitive outcomes, in a number of common disorders including cancer and schizophrenia. We consider mechanisms, including blood-brain barrier dysfunction, which could determine the impact of these antibodies outside encephalitis and account for much of the clinical heterogeneity observed.

Transl Psychiatry. 10, 304 (2020)


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