Cognitive and neuropsychological evolution in children with anti-NMDAR encephalitis

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We describe neurological and cognitive/neuropsychological changes from symptom onset in 13 consecutive children (8 females and 5 males; median age 11 years, range 3–17) with anti-NMDAR-encephalitis. We assessed neurological status using the modified Rankin Scale for children and cognitive/neuropsychological status using a standardized battery that was administered serially in 10 prospective patients, and at latest follow-up in three retrospective patients diagnosed before study initiation. Symptom onset was marked by neurological or psychiatric/behavioural manifestations, which became severe but regressed at variable rates after starting immunotherapy. The 10 prospective patients were able to undergo first standardized cognitive/neuropsychological assessment a median of 3 months (range 1–12) after symptom onset: they had extensive deficits, although severity varied. Subsequent assessment showed marked improvements although the timescale varied. At latest evaluation (median 31 months, range 3–112, after symptom onset), seven patients had no neurological disability, five had improved substantially, and one had persistent behavioural problems. Latest cognitive/neuropsychological assessment in 11 patients with at least a year of follow-up showed normal general intellectual abilities, but over half had residual deficits indicating frontal lobe dysfunction. All patients had resumed normal activities. Our findings suggest that early installation of immunotherapy results in good long-term recovery in most paediatric patients with anti-NMDAR-encephalitis, however, recovery is incomplete and the disease leaves subtle lasting defects that impact quality of life, social relationships, and academic achievement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Feb 17 2016


  • Anti-NMDAR encephalitis
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Long-term outcomes
  • Paediatric patients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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