The brain in systemic inflammatory diseases

Bart Emmer, MD, and Itamar Ronen, PhD


The focus of this theme is the presence, causes, and consequences of brain changes in systemic inflammatory disorders. Initially, we focused on brain involvement in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), more recently we also embarked on studying brain involvement in patients with other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases. The methodological focus of this theme is MRI, with an emphasis on quantitative MRI techniques, since in many patients with overt symptoms conventional qualitative MRI techniques fail to show the underlying pathology.

Study populations

The LUMC serves as a national and international referral center for SLE patients with cerebral involvement. These patients are analyzed in a special outpatient clinic using a systematic, standardized, comprehensive, multidisciplinary protocol. For our research projects, we recruit patients from the SLE outpatient clinic. Patients with other autoimmune disorders are recruited from the outpatient clinic populations from the departments of Rheumatology and Gastroenterology at the LUMC.

Collaborative networks

This project is locally embedded in a longstanding multidisciplinary collaboration with the departments of Rheumatology, Neurology, Psychiatry and Vascular Medicine. At an international level, collaborations exist within the context of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR).