Some cancer survivors report feeling like they can't concentrate after taking chemotherapy drugs, a condition called chemo brain. Photo by National Cancer Institute/NIH
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 27 (UPI) -- A phenomenon known as "chemo brain" is real, researchers in Canada say. In the wake of chemotherapy, some patients complain of a wandering mind and an inability to concentrate.
The condition was given the name chemo brain, but until now, research had revealed little concrete understanding of the cognitive symptoms.
Using brain-imaging technology and cognitive tests designed for patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's and other brain disorders, researchers at the University of British Columbia were able to observe the effects of chemo brain.
"A healthy brain spends some time wandering and some time engaged," study co-author Todd Handy, a professor of psychology at UBC, explained in a press release. "We found that chemo brain is a chronically wandering brain, they're essentially stuck in a shut-out mode."
A healthy brain typically cycles between wandering and focused thought, but brain scans confirmed that the brains of those that complained of chemo brain mostly exhibited the neurological signs of a wandering mind.
Imaging showed that even when test subjects believed themselves to be focusing on a task, large portions of the brain remained in shut-out mode, disengaged.
"Physicians now recognize that the effects of cancer treatment persist long after it's over, and these effects can really impact a person's life," said lead researcher Kristin Campbell, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy.
Campbell and her colleagues hope the research will improve their ability to monitor the effects of chemo brain, as well as develop new treatments for the condition. Campbell is currently measuring the effects of exercise on the cognitive ability of breast cancer survivors with chemo brain.
The study was published in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology.