Brain train­ing aid to re­cov­ery from breast can­cer

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - NEWS - BY JEN­NIFER COCKERELL

Sim­ple brain-train­ing ex­er­cises car­ried out at home have been shown to re­duce emo­tional vul­ner­a­bil­ity in fe­male breast can­cer sur­vivors, ac­cord­ing to new re­search.

Aca­demics at Birk­beck, Univer­sity of Lon­don, said their find­ings could have huge im­pli­ca­tions for other peo­ple suf­fer­ing from chronic con­di­tions and can­cers that af­fect cog­ni­tive func­tion and emo­tional well-be­ing.

Ad­vances in med­i­cal treat­ment mean breast can­cer sur­vival in the UK has dou­bled in the last 40 years, with 78% of women sur­viv­ing for 10 years or more, ac­cord­ing to Can­cer Re­search UK.

But the psy­cho­log­i­cal cost of the ill­ness and the phys­i­cal and men­tal im­pact of surgery, chemo­ther­apy and ra­dio­ther­apy can have a last­ing ef­fect.

Many women suf­fer symp­toms of post­trau­matic stress, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion fol­low­ing treat­ment, and the fear of the can­cer re­oc­cur­ring can have a ma­jor im­pact.

The Birk­beck study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Psy­cho-On­col­ogy, looked at how cog­ni­tive train­ing could help women suf­fer­ing in this way. It com­pared anx­ious and de­pres­sive symp­toms in two groups of women who had un­der­gone breast can­cer treat­ment, af­ter they un­der­took dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive-train­ing tasks over 12 days.

The study showed a sig­nif­i­cant 16% re­duc­tion in anx­i­ety and dis­tress-re­lated symp­toms in the ex­per­i­men­tal group when com­pared to the con­trol group.

Sim­i­larly, train­ing re­duced “ru­mi­na­tion” by 14% com­pared to the con­trol group – a causal fac­tor for de­pres­sion which in­cludes a ten­dency to get stuck in

“We can pave the way to­wards re­silience and cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­ity”

cy­cles of neg­a­tive think­ing. The study, led by Nazanin Der­akhshan, said: “Ad­vances in cog­ni­tive and af­fec­tive neu­ro­science in­di­cate that by build­ing new neu­ral con­nec­tions, we can pave the way to­wards re­silience and cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­ity, im­prov­ing neu­ral ef­fi­ciency.”

Jes­sica Swain­ston, Prof Der­akhshan’s PhD stu­dent who con­ducted the study, said: “This re­search has huge im­pli­ca­tions for not only im­prov­ing cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­ity in breast can­cer but also other chronic con­di­tions and can­cers that af­fect cog­ni­tive func­tion and emo­tional well-be­ing.”

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