Date Submitted


Faculty Advisor

Esperanza Anaya, PhD

Second Faculty Advisor

Sarah E. Getch, PhD

Third Faculty Advisor

Adam Parks, PhD


Autoimmune diseases can cause cognitive impairments in the domains of attention, working memory, short- and long-term memory, language, processing speed, motor control, and executive functioning. Pseudo-dementia (i.e., depression) can also cause cognitive deficits. Autoimmune disorders and depression are heavily comorbid, demonstrating how physical and psychological symptoms can lead to declines in cognitive functioning. The variables autoimmunity, cognitive functioning, and pseudo-dementia have rarely been studied together. The aim of the current study was to examine if autoimmunity or depression is a better predictor of cognitive deficits or if the combination of both contribute to cognitive deficits. Cognitive domains of attention, working memory, short- and long-term memory, processing speed, language, and executive skills were assessed. Hypotheses included: 1) Autoimmunity and high depression would predict lower cognition scores, 2) Autoimmunity and depression would be significantly correlated, 3) Individuals with an autoimmune diagnosis would endorse higher depression rates and therefore score lower on neuropsychological tests compared to those without an autoimmune disorder, and 4) Both depression and autoimmunity would be significant predictors of cognitive deficits. Twenty-two individuals with an autoimmune disease and twenty-two controls were identified through a retroactive chart review. Findings indicated that hypotheses one, three, and four were partially supported by autoimmunity predicting certain cognitive deficits, but depression was not found to be a significant predictor and did not affect cognitive scores. Diagnostic group (Celiac group or control group) was a statistically significant predictor of deficits in verbal fluency.