Brain Exercise Program Eases Chemobrain in Breast Cancer Survivors - Probably A Similar Result for Men with Prostate Cancer

Use of a computerized brain exercise program designed to help people sharpen their cognitive function was found to be effective against chemo brain in breast Cancer Thrivers and will probably be useful for Cancer Thrivers with any chemo brain. 

The side effects of chemotherapy can be significant and affect many different aspects of a Cancer Thrivers life.   Among the possible side effects is its ability to cause chemo brain often referred to as cancer-induced cognitive impairment. In studies, it has been shown that 21% to 90% of Cancer Thrivers report having experienced chemo brain. In some cases, this side effect has been reported to last as long as 20 years after treatment.

As a graduate student, Diane Von Ah, Ph.D., began investigating the fatigue experienced by women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.   Patients described having difficulty thinking clearly after having been treated with chemotherapy. Over the last 20 years, Dr. Von Ah, as well as many other researchers have found that results of neuropsychological and subjective tests demonstrate that breast Cancer Thrivers experience significant deficits in memory compared with women who did not have cancer.

There has been long interest by Neuroscientists of the concept of brain plasticity — the ability of the brain to rewire itself. Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., a neuroscientist discovered that brain plasticity is a lifelong phenomenon. He was the first to harness this finding when he co-invented the cochlear implant. He is also a pioneer in developing plasticity-based computerized brain exercises. Through his studies on brain plasticity, Dr. Merzenich developed computerized brain training exercises that could rewire the human brain through intensive adaptive practice, leading to a mind that is faster and more accurate — and as a result, has sharper cognitive abilities.

Dr. Merzenich founded a company, Posit Science, which develops brain exercises that implement the principles of brain plasticity. Along with neuroscientist Henry Mahncke, Ph.D., they have published more than 100 peer-reviewed studies showing the effectiveness of BrainHQ, a series of cognitive training exercises based on brain plasticity. Their work is now focusing on getting the science out of the lab and into the hands of the people it can help.

 In addition to these two researchers, many independent academic scientists have also used the BrainHQ exercises in their clinical trials. In particular, Dr Von Ah, now at Indiana University, and colleagues and Janette Vardy, B Med(Hons), FRACP, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Sydney conducted clinical trials — funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, respectively — using BrainHQ exercises to see if this approach could help improve cognitive function in Cancer Thrivers. 

Generally, these randomized, controlled trials have demonstrated that Cancer Thrivers, notably breast Cancer Thrivers because they are mostly the subjects of their trials, experience improvements in their cognitive function, leading to broad improvements in quality of life, stress, depression, and other real-world concerns.

  Dr. Von Ah's study has demonstrated that those breast Cancer Thrivers who practiced a specific set of 5 brain exercises in a group setting had improved core cognitive abilities, such as speed and memory, as well as improved general quality of life measures, like stress and anxiety. Dr. Vardy's study also found that in Cancer Thrivers who practiced the brain exercises in their own homes improved their cognitive function, had less anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

 Cancer ABCs does not have any relationship nor does it receive any support from BrainHQ.  However, we do want to point out that it is possible to download some of these exercises by going to the App Store.