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Pathologic tearfulness after limbic encephalitis: A novel disorder and its neural basis

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Georgios P.D. Argyropoulos, Lauren Moore, Clare Loane, Adriana Roca-Fernandez, Carmen Lage-Martinez, Oana Gurau, Sarosh R. Irani, Adam Zeman, Christopher R. Butler

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1320-e1335
Issue number12
Published24 Mar 2020

King's Authors


OBJECTIVE: We investigated the nature and neural foundations of pathologic tearfulness in a uniquely large cohort of patients who had presented with autoimmune limbic encephalitis (aLE). METHODS: We recruited 38 patients (26 men, 12 women; median age 63.06 years; interquartile range [IQR] 16.06 years) in the postacute phase of aLE who completed questionnaires probing emotion regulation. All patients underwent structural/functional MRI postacutely, along with 67 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (40 men, 27 women; median age 64.70 years; IQR 19.87 years). We investigated correlations of questionnaire scores with demographic, clinical, neuropsychological, and brain imaging data across patients. We also compared patients diagnosed with pathologic tearfulness and those without, along with healthy controls, on gray matter volume, resting-state functional connectivity, and activity. RESULTS: Pathologic tearfulness was reported by 50% of the patients, while no patient reported pathologic laughing. It was not associated with depression, impulsiveness, memory impairment, executive dysfunction in the postacute phase, or amygdalar abnormalities in the acute phase. It correlated with changes in specific emotional brain networks: volume reduction in the right anterior hippocampus, left fusiform gyrus, and cerebellum, abnormal hippocampal resting-state functional connectivity with the posteromedial cortex and right middle frontal gyrus, and abnormal hemodynamic activity in the left fusiform gyrus, right inferior parietal lobule, and ventral pons. CONCLUSIONS: Pathologic tearfulness is common following aLE, is not a manifestation of other neuropsychiatric features, and reflects abnormalities in networks of emotion regulation beyond the acute hippocampal focus. The condition, which may also be present in other neurologic disorders, provides novel insights into the neural basis of affective control and its dysfunction in disease.

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