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Research Group Findings: EEG Biofeedback Restores Normal Function to Patients with "Chemobrain."

CLEVELAND, May 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Applied Brain Research Foundation of Ohio (ABRFO) has reported that EEG biofeedback—or neurofeedback—was effective in reversing the symptoms of 21 of 23 breast cancer survivors experiencing symptoms of post-cancer cognitive impairment (PCCI, or "chemobrain"). Jean Alvarez, EdD, Director of Research at ABRFO, was principal investigator for the study, published online in Integrative Cancer Therapies.  Alvarez states that "after EEG biofeedback, patients showed significant improvement in areas of cognition, fatigue, sleep impairment and psychological symptoms."

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The study is notable ("frontier," to quote one reviewer) in that until now, oncologists have had to recommend strategies to help their patients compensate for their impairment ("always put your keys in the same place," "only focus on one thing at a time"), as there has not been an approach that would restore patients' cognitive function.  The findings released today suggest that most patients who experience PCCI after cancer treatment can anticipate a restoration of their pre-cancer levels of functioning with EEG biofeedback.

Interest in PCCI has increased over the past year, as new research has confirmed earlier studies showing identifiable changes in brain function following treatment for cancer.  One 2012 study found evidence that for some cancer survivors, cognitive impairment continued to be evident 20 years after the completion of treatment.

Some authors have suggested that oncologists may feel reluctant to mention PCCI as a potential consequence of cancer treatment, out of worry that patients may choose not to have the most appropriate treatment.  The ABRFO study may ease that concern, enabling physicians to acknowledge both the possibility of PCCI and also the potential for a complete return to a pre-cancer level of function.

The ABRFO study is small, and results will need to be confirmed with a larger population, but the results were very strong (12 of 18 measures significant at p<.001, including all cognitive, fatigue and psychological scales, as well as the overall sleep scale; only three of seven sleep subscales were not significant).

Co-author Fremonta Meyer, MD, is a psychiatrist at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.

Link to paper:

April 12, 2013:  Alvarez J, et al. The Effect of EEG Biofeedback on Reducing Postcancer Cognitive Impairment

About Applied Brain Research Foundation of Ohio

Applied Brain Research Foundation of Ohio, based in Cleveland, was formed to study non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical strategies for addressing brain injury, brain impairment and cognitive loss.  In addition to post-cancer cognitive impairment, current research interests include concussion/traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Inquiries should be directed to Jean Alvarez, EdD