Cognitive Remediation for Pediatric Brain Tumor Patients
Over 4,000 children are diagnosed with brain tumors in the U.S. each year and advances in treatment have led to significant increases in survival rates for these patients. However, as a result of the disease and treatment with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, pediatric brain tumor patients show deficits in frontal lobe functions including several aspects of executive function, showing significant declines over time. Remediation of these deficits is a critical target for research. Major changes in brain maturation and connectivity occur during childhood and adolescence, making this a potentially critical window of opportunity for neuroplasticity-based cognitive interventions to support the neural changes that integrate multiple key regions. Computerized cognitive training programs have been used successfully with the patients with schizophrenia, individuals with ADHD, and prodromal adolescents at risk for psychosis. However, these programs have been limited in their application to pediatric brain tumor survivors and untested in brain tumor patients who are undergoing treatment. In the context of an innovative longitudinal design, we aim to test the feasibility, acceptability, and initial efficacy of a neuroplasticiy-based cognitive training program, to enhance working memory and attention in children and adolescents who have been diagnosed with brain tumors. We will recruit children with brain tumors at the time of their diagnosis and conduct cognitive testing at baseline (pre-surgery), and at 4-, 5-, and 6-month follow-ups. At 4 months, half will undergo an adaptive computerized cognitive training (treatment condition) for 5 weeks and half will be assigned to a control condition (the non-adaptive version of the program). Cognitive assessments will be conducted at completion of the cognitive intervention and at 5-weeks post-intervention. Findings from this pilot study will be used to develop an application for a multi- site randomized clinical trial to test this intervention in a large sample of pediatric brain tumor patients.
This project is funded by a grants (R21CA175840-01A1) from the National Cancer Institute and a gift for pediatric brain tumor research.