"People with 'chemo brain' often can't focus, remember things or multitask the way they did before chemotherapy. Our study demonstrates for the first time that patients suffering from these cognitive symptoms have specific alterations in brain metabolism," said Dr. Daniel Silverman, co-author of the study.
The American experts say that chemotherapy affects brain by changing its blood flow and metabolism. It was also claimed that chemo's negative effect on the frontal cortex, the brain part responsible for memories, could last for nearly a decade.
Participants at the study were divided into three groups: those who did not suffered breast cancer, those who had had cancer and had been exposed to chemotherapy from five to ten years and those who had surgeries to remove cancerous tumors. 50 women were examined, 13 from the first group, 16 from the second and the remaining 21 from the third group.
All women were given memory tests while scientists monitored their brain activity by using a PET scanner.
The experiment proved women who had been treated with chemotherapy faced difficulties in solving the tasks because of low frontal cortex activity.
"The same area of the frontal lobe that showed lower resting metabolism displayed a substantial leap in activity when the patients were performing the memory exercise. In effect, these women's brains were working harder than the control (comparison) subjects' to recall the same information," explained Dr. Daniel Silverman.
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