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Chemobrain Means a Wandering Brain

Posted 5/5/2015

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  This is a really interesting perspective on chemobrain. I have written many times before, and many of us have personal experience, with the changes in cognition related to chemotherapy. It is always impossible to truly tease out what is directly due to drugs and what is associated with diminished estrogen or stress or depression and anxiety. 

  Whatever the causes, many people experience a general cognitive blunting and diminished executive functioning  meaning our ability to plan, focus, remember instructions, and multi-task. Often these troubles are minor and easily managed or compensated for in other ways. Some people, however, have more serious and ongoing cognitive issues and feel that their ability to maintain their usual responsibilities, especially professional ones, has been compromised. 

  A new study from the University of British Columbia is more specific than others that I have seen. Rather than generalizations about chemo brain, it talks about brain wandering. They found real differences in peoples' ability to focus for longer periods of time, to stay on topic. Rather than summarizing any more, here is the start and a link. This is a brief summary and well worth your time.

'Chemo brain' is real, say UBC researchers
UBC research shows that chemotherapy can lead to
excessive mind wandering and an inability to concentrate.
Dubbed 'chemo-brain,' the negative cognitive effects of the
cancer treatment have long been suspected, but the UBC
study is the first to explain why patients have difficulty
paying attention.
Breast cancer survivors were asked to complete a set of
tasks while researchers in the Departments of Psychology
and Physical Therapy monitored their brain activity. What
they found is that the minds of people with chemo-brain lack
the ability for sustained focused thought.
"A healthy brain spends some time wandering and some
time engaged," said Todd Handy, a professor of psychology
at UBC. "We found that chemo brain is a chronically
wandering brain, they're essentially stuck in a shut out


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