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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2018 May 21. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djy089. [Epub ahead of print]

Brain Activity Associated With Attention Deficits Following Chemotherapy for Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Author information

1
Departments of Diagnostic Imaging, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN.
2
Epidemiology and Cancer Control, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN.
3
Oncology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN.

Abstract

Background:

The impact of contemporary chemotherapy treatment for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia on central nervous system activity is not fully appreciated.

Methods:

Neurocognitive testing and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were obtained in 165 survivors five or more years postdiagnosis (average age = 14.4 years, 7.7 years from diagnosis, 51.5% males). Chemotherapy exposure was measured as serum concentration of methotrexate following high-dose intravenous injection. Neurocognitive testing included measures of attention and executive function. fMRI was obtained during completion of two tasks, the continuous performance task (CPT) and the attention network task (ANT). Image analysis was performed using Statistical Parametric Mapping software, with contrasts targeting sustained attention, alerting, orienting, and conflict. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Results:

Compared with population norms, survivors demonstrated impairment on number-letter switching (P < .001, a measure of cognitive flexibility), which was associated with treatment intensity (P = .048). Task performance during fMRI was associated with neurocognitive dysfunction across multiple tasks. Regional brain activation was lower in survivors diagnosed at younger ages for the CPT (bilateral parietal and temporal lobes) and the ANT (left parietal and right hippocampus). With higher serum methotrexate exposure, CPT activation decreased in the right temporal and bilateral frontal and parietal lobes, but ANT alerting activation increased in the ventral frontal, insula, caudate, and anterior cingulate.

Conclusions:

Brain activation during attention and executive function tasks was associated with serum methotrexate exposure and age at diagnosis. These findings provide evidence for compromised and compensatory changes in regional brain function that may help clarify the neural substrates of cognitive deficits in acute lymphoblastic leukemia survivors.

PMID:
29790971
DOI:
10.1093/jnci/djy089

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