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Chemo Brain and Brain Training

Chemo brain or chemo fog refers to the cog­ni­tive changes that can occur dur­ing and after chemother­a­py. These changes may trans­late into mem­o­ry laps­es, motor prob­lems, dif­fi­cul­ty find­ing words and prob­lems man­ag­ing mul­ti­ple tasks and learn­ing new things. Although the caus­es of the phe­nom­e­non are still under debate, it is nonethe­less a real prob­lem, affect­ing 20% to 30% of breast can­cer patients who under­go chemother­a­py. This New York Time arti­cle reports that chemo brain effects may be longer last­ing than orig­i­nal­ly thought.

Chemo brain,” the fog­gy think­ing and for­get­ful­ness that can­cer patients often com­plain about after treat­ment, may last for five years or more for a siz­able per­cent­age of patients, new research shows.

The study, pub­lished in The Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Oncol­o­gy, is a vin­di­ca­tion of sorts for many can­cer patients, whose com­plaints about think­ing and mem­o­ry prob­lems are often dis­missed by doc­tors who lay blame for the symp­toms on nor­mal aging or the fatigue of ill­ness.

What is offered to these patients to recov­er their brain func­tions faster?

Many of the cog­ni­tive deficits were rel­a­tive­ly mild and eas­i­ly addressed with cop­ing skills like note tak­ing or strate­gies to improve focus.

We all lose mem­o­ry with time and learn to com­pen­sate,” Dr. Syr­jala said. “These patients just have to rec­og­nize that their brains are per­haps not as fine­ly tuned as they were before they were diag­nosed with their can­cers, but they can com­pen­sate very effec­tive­ly.”

One won­ders whether any of the cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams avail­able would ben­e­fit can­cer patients. In 2008, Posit Sci­ence did con­duct a promis­ing pre­lim­i­nary study but ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­als are still to come…

Relat­ed post: Chemo Brain: cog­ni­tive effects of chemother­a­py

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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