Study: Specific Type of Brain Training Shows Impact Against Chemobrain

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

A newly published pilot study shows that a specific type of brain training —found in BrainHQ from Posit Science — was able to show impact on cancer-related cognitive impairment, more commonly known as “chemobrain.” Up to 90 percent of cancer survivors report cognitive issues from the disease or its treatment. There is no widely-accepted treatment for chemobrain.

The independent research was conducted by a team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and was published in the peer-reviewed journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, under the title: Speed of processing training in middle‑aged and older breast cancer survivors (SOAR): results of a randomized controlled pilotThe study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen.

The pilot study enrolled 60 breast cancer survivors, who were randomized into a brain training intervention group and a no-training control.  The intervention group was asked to complete a total of 10 hours of training (at the rate of about two hours per week) in the visual speed of processing exercise “Double Decision” from the BrainHQ web app. Participants were measured at study entry, six weeks later, and six months later.

The researchers reported significant improvements in standard measures of processing speed and executive function at the six-month follow-up. They also noted significant improvements at six weeks in standard measures of processing speed and episodic memory. Other subtests from the NIH toolbox did not show significance.

As noted by the investigators, these results are largely consistent with prior research. In a 2012 study of 82 cancer survivors at Indiana University (using a set of five BrainHQ visual speed of processing exercises in classes for 10 hours against a memory training control), researchers found significant gains in processing speed and working memory at a two-month follow-up.

In addition, in a 2016 study of 242 cancer survivors in Australia (using a set of five BrainHQ visual speed of processing exercises on their own at home for 40 hours against a no training control), researchers found significant improvements in the primary assessment, the Perceived Cognitive Impairment measure, after training and at a six-month follow-up.

The Alabama study contributes to the literature by focusing on the persistence of effects of just a single exercise with a relatively small amount of training. In addition, it is the first study of its kind conducted among a population with a majority of African-American women.

Posit Science is working with regulators to find the most efficient path to market for making brain training that addresses clinical conditions broadly available.

“We run a robust R&D program with university-based investigators around the world,” noted Dr. Henry Mahncke, the CEO of Posit Science. “In just the last 60 days, independent researchers have published results using our exercises to address dementia preventionbipolar disorder and chemobrain.”

An estimated 5.5 million Americans live with dementia, 5.7 million live with bipolar disorder and 14.5 million are cancer survivors.