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Disrupted resting-state brain functional network properties in non-neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus patients.

Lupus 2023 April
INTRODUCTION: Previous fMRI studies revealed that the abnormal functional connectivity (FC) was related to cognitive impairment in patients with SLE. However, it remains unclear how the disease severity affects the functional topological organization of the whole-brain network in SLE patients without neuropsychiatric symptoms (non-NPSLE).

OBJECTIVE: We aim to examine the impairment of the whole-brain functional network in SLE patients without neuropsychiatric symptoms (non-NPSLE), which may improve the understanding of neural mechanism in SLE.

METHODS: We acquired resting-state fMRI data from 32 non-NPSLE patients and 32 healthy controls (HC), constructed their whole-brain functional network, and then estimated the topological properties including global and nodal parameters by using graph theory. Meanwhile, we also investigated the differences in intra- and inter-network FC between the non-NPSLE patients and the HC.

RESULTS: The non-NPSLE patients showed significantly lower clustering coefficient, global and local efficiency, but higher characteristic path length than the HC. The non-NPSLE patients had significantly lower nodal strength in two regions, ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and anterior PFC (aPFC) than the HC. We found the non-NPSLE patients had significantly lower intra-network FC within frontal-parietal network (FPN) and within default mode network (DMN), and significantly lower inter-network FC between DMN and FPN than the HC. The intra-network FC within DMN was negatively correlated with systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity index (SLEDAI).

CONCLUSION: Abnormal whole-brain functional network properties and abnormal intra- and inter-network FC may be related to cognitive impairment and disease degree in the non-NPSLE patients. Our findings provide a network perspective to understand the neural mechanisms of SLE.

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