A call to neuroscientists to help reveal root causes of chemobrain

A substantial fraction of non-central nervous system cancer survivors, especially those who have received chemotherapy, experience long-lasting cognitive difficulties, including problems with concentration, word-finding, short-term memory, and multitasking. Though well documented, cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI), known colloquially as chemobrain or chemofog, remains a mystery regarding its underlying neurological causes. In a Forum paper published June 12 in the journal Trends in Neurosciences, researchers at the National Cancer Institute propose a new approach to studying CRCI and call for changes in the way it’s diagnosed.

“In our opinion, we need an infusion of new ideas from neuroscience,” says lead author Todd S. Horowitz, Program Director in the Behavioral Research Program’s (BRP) Basic Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences Branch (BBPSB), located in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) at the NCI. “The current state of the art of our understanding of CRCI is not sufficient. Cognitive neuroscience would help us characterize the deficits people have and allow us to connect them to particular brain systems.”

Better diagnosis tools will also help patients in their choices of cancer treatment options, as they will provide a clearer picture of who is likely to experience CRCI and which cognitive functions are likely


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