What Is “Chemo Brain?”

EEG test may help cancer patients with mental fog

woman with headache

The American Cancer Society describes “chemo brain” as the mental cloudiness cancer patients notice before, during, and after treatment.

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Now, a new study is the first to detect such changes in the brain activity of women while they were being treated.

Halle Moore, MD, an oncologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute, led the study. Dr. Moore used an electroencephalogram, or EEG, to monitor the brain activity patterns of eight women receiving chemotherapy.

Results show mental and physical fatigue during chemotherapy corresponded to significant changes in EEG brain activity patterns. “The EEG study demonstrated … more brain activity in women during chemotherapy, which particularly went up after doing a cognitive … or physical task,” Dr. Moore says.

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Dr. Moore says EEG may one day become a better way to measure alterations in brain function associated with chemotherapy.  “If indeed a larger study would confirm that EEG measurements were more sensitive to and correlated to individuals who were experiencing more of these issues, then it would suggest that it might be a means we could use to formally study interventions.”

Dr. Moore presented her findings this week at the American Society of Oncology’s annual meeting.

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