Queens Affective Sciences Laboratory
Deficits in Emotion and Cognitive Processing
Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is an autoimmune disorder that affects a variety of systems within the body, including the brain. Both humans with lupus and animal models of lupus have shown structural and functional damage to the amygdala, an area important for processing the emotional relevance of stimuli in the environment. The amygdala also serves to modulate perception, attention, and memory to facilitate the processing and learning of relevant stimuli. Research has linked the amygdala to deficits in emotional memory and emotional behavior. Moreover, areas of the prefrontal cortex are also associated with brain damage, and we want to examine how such deficits may impair emotion regulation. Our research attempts to characterize deficits in emotional processing in people with lupus, and to associate such deficits with certain autoantibody presence, disease characteristics, cognitive dysfunction, and presence of mood disorders.
Deficits in Spatial Processing
Animal models of neuropsychiatric lupus have also exhibited alterations in spatial memory. Specifically, mice that have been immunized with lupus-related antibodies and given an agent to open the blood-brain-barrier, exhibit a deficit in spatial memory and a loss of neurons in the hippocampus. Electrophysiological recordings from these immunized mice reveal a specific deficit in hippocampal place cells, which are involved in processing spatial information. Since people with lupus often experience forgetfulness, particularly as the disease progresses, we want to quantify these cognitive changes. Memory loss specific to spatial relations has not been previously studied in this group. Thus, another goal of our research is to characterize deficits of spatial memory in people with lupus, and to associate such deficits with general memory loss and/or deficits in visuospatial processing.
Our collaborators include: Drs. Meggan Mackay, Cynthia Aranow, Paul Mattis, Betty Diamond, Bruce Volpe, Eric Chang, and Patricio Huerta.
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