Brain tumors are the second most commonly occurring cancer during childhood. A new study has suggested that survivors of childhood brain tumors have lower working memory performance in adulthood compared to healthy adults.
For the study, researchers studied the working memory of adult survivors of childhood posterior fossa brain tumors versus a healthy control sample using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and neuropsychological measures. Each group consisted of 17 study participants.
During fMRI, the study participants completed a measure called the n-back task. The subjects were asked to monitor a series of letters. Being able to accurately recall a letter two or three letters back represented higher working memory capabilities. Study participants also completed other standardized clinical measures.
Tricia King, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State University in the US, said, "Our goal was to identify the neural mechanisms underlying working memory difficulty in adult survivors of childhood brain tumors. The results suggest that adult survivors of pediatric posterior fossa brain tumors recruited additional resources to control cognitive ability in the prefrontal lobe during increased demands for working memory. This increased prefrontal activation is associated with lower working memory performance."
The study concluded that adult survivors of childhood brain tumors are at risk for neurocognitive deficits, such as working memory impairment, that contribute to poor long-term outcomes.
The study appeared in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.