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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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