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Brain Imaging Behav. 2013 Dec;7(4):524-32. doi: 10.1007/s11682-013-9244-1.

Chemotherapy altered brain functional connectivity in women with breast cancer: a pilot study.

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Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont College of Medicine, 1 South Prospect St, Burlington, VT, 05401, USA,


Adjuvant chemotherapy is associated with improvements in long-term cancer survival. However, reports of cognitive impairment following treatment emphasize the importance of understanding the long-term effects of chemotherapy on brain functioning. Cognitive deficits found in chemotherapy patients suggest a change in brain functioning that affects specific cognitive domains such as attentional processing and executive functioning. This study examined the processes potentially underlying these changes in cognition by examining brain functional connectivity pre- and post-chemotherapy in women with breast cancer. Functional connectivity examines the temporal correlation between spatially remote brain regions in an effort to understand how brain networks support specific cognitive functions. Nine women diagnosed with breast cancer completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) session before chemotherapy, 1 month after, and 1 year after the completion of chemotherapy. Seed-based functional connectivity analyses were completed using seeds in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) to examine connectivity in the dorsal anterior attention network and in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) to examine connectivity in the default mode network. Results showed decreased functional connectivity 1 month after chemotherapy that partially returned to baseline at 1 year in the dorsal attention network. Decreased connectivity was seen in the default mode network at 1 month and 1 year following chemotherapy. In addition, increased subjective memory complaints were noted at 1 month and 1 year post-chemotherapy. These findings suggest a detrimental effect of chemotherapy on brain functional connectivity that is potentially related to subjective cognitive assessment.

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