To determine whether neuropsychiatric manifestations in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are influenced by antibodies against the human N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor types NR2a or NR2b. A decapeptide was synthesized containing a sequence motif present in the extracellular ligand-binding domain of NMDA receptors NR2a and NR2b, bound by the monoclonal murine anti-DNA antibody R4A. In an ELISA with the murine monoclonal R4v as positive control, plasma samples of 57 patients with SLE were examined for the anti-peptide (anti-NR2) antibody after the patients had been subjected to comprehensive psychological and cognitive testing. Poor performance on the Visual Paired Associates test (immediate), the Grooved Pegboard test, as well as high scores on the Beck Depression Inventory, and scales D-2 (depression), Pd-4 (psychopathic deviate), Sc-8 (schizophrenia), and Ma-9 (hypomania) of the MMPI-2 were significantly associated with elevated levels of anti-NR2 antibodies. The findings in several domains indicate an association between anti-NR2 antibodies and depressed mood in addition to decreased short-time memory and learning. Antibodies to NMDA receptors thus may represent one of several mechanisms for cerebral dysfunction in patients with SLE.