October 1, 2012

(San Francisco, CA) A new clinical study, published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, shows that breast cancer survivors who experience “chemobrain”—cognitive problems that arise during and after cancer treatment—may finally have a valid treatment option: computerized brain training. In the study, breast cancer survivors who used a specific set of Posit Science’s brain training exercises showed significant improvements in memory, brain speed, anxiety, depression, and health-related quality of life.

“Cancer-related cognitive impairment can inhibit full recovery from cancer,” said Diane Von Ah, PhD, RN the study’s lead author and assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Nursing and a researcher at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. “Many breast cancer survivors report difficulty with basic cognitive abilities, like word-finding, memory, and multi-tasking. These problems in turn affect self-confidence, mood, and more. As a result, some cancer survivors have a long road ahead of them even after their cancer is gone. Their cognitive problems make it difficult for them to meet family and work responsibilities and life goals.”

Recent research has confirmed that chemobrain, which scientists refer to as “cancer-related cognitive impairment,” affects anywhere from 20% to 75% of breast cancer survivors who undergo chemotherapy. Symptoms can last up to ten years after drug or radiation therapies have ceased. Until now, there have been no evidence-based treatment options for this problem.

The results of this study offer hope that this may become the first evidence-based treatment option for breast cancer survivors who report cognitive concerns. “It is exciting that the computerized brain training program improved both memory and information processing speed,” Dr. Von Ah said. “Our next step is to conduct a larger study to duplicate our results, especially to see if our results hold in subgroups of breast cancer survivors.”

In the study, eighty-two breast cancer survivors took part in a randomized, blinded, controlled trial comparing two types of cognitive training—computerized brain speed training from Posit Science and a classroom memory training course—to a control group that did no cognitive training. Researchers measured cognitive function before, immediately after and two months after completing training. The Posit Science training group showed significant improvements in memory, speed, depression, fatigue, and health-related quality of life, all of which were maintained at the two-month follow-up visit, with anxiety symptoms improving specifically at the follow-up visit. The classroom memory training group showed improvements in self-rated cognitive function, with additional benefits in memory and anxiety documented at the follow-up visit.

“One surprise was how much people liked the brain training exercises,” noted Dr. Von Ah. “Often getting patients to use rehab programs that will help them can be difficult due to their busy lifestyles, but people enjoyed the challenge and the interactivity of the exercises.”

The Posit Science brain training exercises used in the study focused on processing speed, divided attention, attentional speed, sustained attention, and rapid visual search and memory tasks. They are available online at www.BrainHQ.com. Each exercise uses an intelligent algorithm to constantly adjust, so that each user has a unique journey through the program and experiences maximum benefit. “We’re excited that our brain training exercises have been shown to improve cognitive function for people with chemobrain,” said renowned neuroscientist, Michael Merzenich, PhD, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science and professor emeritus of the University of California San Francisco. “We believe our cognitive training has the potential to help millions of people think faster, focus better, and remember more, for a better life. This study adds to the scientific and clinical research indicating the effectiveness of our programs for a broad spectrum of the population.”