Animal Models Show That Cancer Itself Can Impact Memory – It's Not Just Chemo Brain!

Chemo brain, a state of cognitive impairment characterized by confusion and memory problems, is a commonly reported side effect of chemotherapy.  Some new research has shown that cognitive impairment might start earlier, with the development of the cancer tumors.

Researchers at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto, Canada, conducted a study focusing on the "chemo brain" effect, with the purpose of understanding to what extent states of cognitive impairment are caused by the chemotherapy.

The research team led by Dr. Gordon Winocur looked at chemo brain in mice.  Their research led them to observe that problems in learning and recall began to occur prior to the subject mice with cancer receiving any chemotherapy.   

According to Dr. Winocur, " Our work isolated that the cancer is responsible for some of the memory and thinking complaints experienced by cancer survivors, and that drug therapy adds to the problem."  In addition, he said that "Both factors independently affect brain function in different ways, which can lead to the development of other psychological disturbances, such as anxiety and depression.   

The team also found that the cognitive effects experienced by the subject mice were additive, not interactive.

The team's findings were recently published in the journal Neuroscience.