Alterations in brain activation during working memory processing associated with breast cancer and treatment: A prospective functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Brenna C. McDonald, Susan K. Conroy, Tim A. Ahles, John D. West, Andrew J. Saykin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

135 Scopus citations


Purpose: To prospectively examine alterations in working memory (WM) -associated brain activation related to breast cancer and treatment by using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Patients and Methods: Patients treated with chemotherapy (CTx+; n = 16) or without chemotherapy (CTx-; n = 12) and healthy controls (n = 15) were scanned during an n-back task at baseline (after surgery but before radiation, chemotherapy, and/or antiestrogen treatment), 1 month after completion of chemotherapy (M1), and 1 year later (Y1), or at yoked intervals for CTx- and controls. SPM5 was used for all image analyses, which included cross-sectional between-group and group-by-time interaction and longitudinal within-group analyses, all using a statistical threshold of 0.001. Results: At baseline, patients with cancer showed increased bifrontal and decreased left parietal activation compared with controls. At M1, both cancer groups showed decreased frontal hyperactivation compared with controls, with increased hyperactivation at Y1. These cross-sectional findings were confirmed by group-by-time interaction analyses, which showed frontal activation decreases from baseline to M1 in patients compared with controls. Within-group analyses showed different patterns of longitudinal activation change by treatment group (CTx+ or CTx-), with prominent alterations in the frontal lobes bilaterally. Conclusion: Significant frontal lobe hyperactivation to support WM was found in patients with breast cancer. Superimposed on this background, patients showed decreased frontal activation at M1, with partial return to the previously abnormal baseline at Y1. These functional changes correspond to frontal lobe regions where we previously reported structural changes in this cohort and provide prospective, longitudinal data that further elucidate mechanisms underlying cognitive effects related to breast cancer and its treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2500-2508
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Jul 10 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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