Mechanisms of Cognitive Impairment in Children Treated for Brain Tumors
In developed countries, brain tumors are the leading cause of disability and death among children. Treatment advances have improved survival rates, but survival comes at a cost for pediatric brain tumor survivors. Surgery and cranial radiotherapy are needed for cure but are both damaging to brain tissue – especially white matter, which is critical for the communication among brain networks. White matter damage is related to significant cognitive difficulties, with cranial radiotherapy leading to more severe deficits than surgery alone due to the toxicity of the treatment. One of the most severe cognitive deficits pediatric brain tumor survivors experience is on information processing speed, which is the amount of time needed to complete a task and underlies higher-order cognitive processes. However, it is currently unknown how white matter damage leads to compromised information processing speed in pediatric brain tumor survivors. Therefore, the goal of my research is to determine the impact of brain tumors and their treatment on cognition. Specifically, I will examine how brain tumors and their treatment affects the structural organization of the brain. I will also examine how brain tumors and their treatment affect the coordination of functional neural activity in brain regions important for information processing speed, such as the strength and timing of brain responses. By understanding how and why brain tumors and their treatments affect brain functioning and information processing speed we can identify which aspects of the brain are most sensitive to treatment. This will in turn help shape future rehabilitative programs, such as by focusing cognitive strategies that tap into unaffected brain regions. Furthermore, by identifying the regions of the brain that are most sensitive and affected by treatment, this may help guide future treatment in order to minimize adverse cognitive outcomes by modifying where the treatment is being administered in the brain.
Noor Al Dahhan , The Hospital for Sick Children
Partners and Donors
Brain Changes Initiative