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There is increasing interest in the utilization of proton beam radiation therapy (PRT) to treat pediatric brain tumors based upon presumed advantages over traditional photon radiation therapy (XRT). PRT provides more conformal radiation to the tumor with reduced dose to healthy brain parenchyma. Less radiation exposure to brain tissue beyond the tumor is thought to reduce neuropsychological sequelae. This systematic review aimed to provide an overview of published studies comparing neuropsychological outcomes between PRT and XRT.
PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, Web of Science, Scopus, and Cochrane were systematically searched for peer-reviewed published studies that compared neuropsychological outcomes between PRT and XRT in pediatric brain tumor patients.
Eight studies were included. Six of the studies utilized retrospective neuropsychological data; the majority were longitudinal studies (n = 5). XRT was found to result in lower neuropsychological functioning across time. PRT was associated with generally stable neuropsychological functioning across time, with the exception of working memory and processing speed, which showed variable outcomes across studies. However, studies inconsistently included or considered medical and sociodemographic differences between treatment groups, which may have impacted neuropsychological outcomes.
Despite methodological limitations, including limited baseline neuropsychological evaluations, temporal variability between radiation treatment and first evaluation or initial and follow-up evaluations, and heterogenous samples, there is emerging evidence of sociodemographic inequities in access to PRT. With more institutions dedicating funding towards PRT, there may be the opportunity to objectively evaluate the neuropsychological benefits of patients matched on medical and sociodemographic variables.
Survivors of childhood brain tumors experience neurological sequelae that disrupt everyday adaptive functioning (AF) skills. The Neurological Predictor Scale (NPS), a cumulative measure of tumor treatments and sequelae, predicts cognitive outcomes, but findings on its relation to informant-reported executive dysfunction (ED) and AF are mixed. Given known effects of frontal-subcortical system disruptions on AF, this study assessed the NPS’ relationship with AF as mediated by frontal systems dysfunction, measured by the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe).
75 participants (Mage = 23.5, SDage = 4.5) were young adult survivors of childhood brain tumors at least 5 years past diagnosis. FrSBe and Scales of Independent Behavior-Revised (SIB-R), a measure of AF, were administered to informants. Parallel multiple mediator models included Apathy and ED as mediators, and age at diagnosis and time between diagnosis and assessment as covariates.
More complex treatment and sequelae were correlated with poorer functioning. Mediation models were significant for all subscales: Motor Skills (MS), p = .0001; Social Communication (SC), p = .002; Personal Living (PL), p = .004; Community Living (CL), p = .007. The indirect effect of ED on SC and CL was significant; the indirect effect of Apathy was not significant for any subscales.
More complex tumor treatment and sequelae were associated with poorer long-term AF via increased ED. Cognitive rehabilitation programs may focus on the role of executive function and initiation that contribute to AF, particularly SC and CL skills, to help survivors achieve comparable levels of independence in everyday function as their peers.
Right cerebellar-left frontal (RC-LF) white matter integrity (WMI) has been associated with working memory. However, prior studies have employed measures of working memory that include processing speed and attention. We examined the relationships between the RC-LF WMI and processing speed, attention, and working memory to clarify the relationship of RC-LF WMI with a specific cognitive function. Right superior longitudinal fasciculus II (SLF II) WMI and visual attention were included as a negative control tract and task to demonstrate a double dissociation.
Adult survivors of childhood brain tumors [n = 29, age: M = 22 years (SD = 5), 45% female] and demographically matched controls were recruited (n = 29). Tests of auditory attention span, working memory, and visual attention served as cognitive measures. Participants completed a 3-T MRI diffusion-weighted imaging scan. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and radial diffusivity (RD) served as WMI measures. Partial correlations between WMI and cognitive scores included controlling for type of treatment.
A correlational double dissociation was found. RC-LF WMI was associated with auditory attention (FA: r = .42, p = .03; RD: r = −.50, p = .01) and was not associated with visual attention (FA: r = −.11, p = .59; RD: r = −.11, p = .57). SLF II FA WMI was associated with visual attention (FA: r = .44, p = .02; RD: r = −.17, p = .40) and was not associated with auditory attention (FA: r = .24, p = .22; RD: r = −.10, p = .62).
The results show that RC-LF WMI is associated with auditory attention span rather than working memory per se and provides evidence for a specificity based on the correlational double dissociation.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) often adversely affect adaptive functioning (AF). However, the cognitive mechanisms by which AF is disrupted are not well understood in young children who sustain TBI. This study examined pragmatic language (PL) and executive functioning (EF) as potential mechanisms for AF disruption in children with early, predominantly mild-complicated, TBI.
The sample consisted of 76 children between the ages of 6 and 10 years old who sustained a TBI (n = 36) or orthopedic injury (OI; n = 40) before 6 years of age and at least 1 year prior to testing (M = 4.86 years, SD = 1.59). Children’s performance on a PL and an expressive vocabulary task (which served as a control task), and parent report of child’s EF and AF were examined at two time points 1 year apart (i.e., at age 8 and at age 9 years).
Injury type (TBI vs. OI) significantly predicted child’s social and conceptual, but not practical, AF. Results indicated that PL, and not expressive vocabulary or EF at time 1, mediated the relationship between injury type and both social and conceptual AF at time 2.
A TBI during early childhood appears to subtly, but uniquely, disrupt complex language skills (i.e., PL), which in turn may disrupt subsequent social and conceptual AF in middle childhood. Additional longitudinal research that examines different aspects of PL and adaptive outcomes into adolescence is warranted.
Objective: Radiation therapy (RT) improves rates of survival of patients with childhood brain tumors but increases deficits in cognition and independent living skills. Previous literature has studied difficulties in basic cognitive processes, but few explore impairment in higher-order skills such as adaptive functioning. Some studies identify females as at risk for cognitive deficits due to RT, but few investigate sex differences in adaptive functioning. It was hypothesized that females would exhibit poorer long-term independent living skills and core cognitive skills relative to males following RT. Methods: Forty-five adult survivors of posterior fossa childhood brain tumors (24 females) completed the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI-II), Wechsler Memory Scale, Third Edition (WMS-III) Digit Span Forward (DSF) and Backward (DSB), and Oral Symbol Digit Modalities Test (OSDMT). Informants completed the Scales of Independent Behavior-Revised (SIB-R). Results: DSF and OSDMT were positively correlated with all five SIB-R domains, full-scale IQ (FSIQ) was positively correlated with four SIB-R domains, and DSB was positively correlated with three SIB-R domains. There was an interaction between sex and RT for OSDMT and community living skills with trend level interactions for personal living skills and broad independent living skills, where females without RT had higher scores than females with RT. Conclusions: Female survivors were more affected by RT than males across the community living skills domain of adaptive functioning as well as processing speed. Processing speed deficits may have a cascading impact on daily living skills. Future studies should investigate how clinical and biological factors may contribute to personalized treatment plans between sexes. (JINS, 2019, 25, 729–739)
Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate alterations in functional connectivity, white matter integrity, and cognitive abilities due to sports-related concussion (SRC) in adolescents using a prospective longitudinal design. Methods: We assessed male high school football players (ages 14–18) with (n=16) and without (n=12) SRC using complementary resting state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) along with cognitive performance using the Immediate Post-Concussive Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). We assessed both changes at the acute phase (<7 days post-SRC) and at 21 days later, as well as, differences between athletes with SRC and age- and team-matched control athletes. Results: The results revealed rs-fMRI hyperconnectivity within posterior brain regions (e.g., precuneus and cerebellum), and hypoconnectivity in more anterior areas (e.g., inferior and middle frontal gyri) when comparing SRC group to control group acutely. Performance on the ImPACT (visual/verbal memory composites) was correlated with resting state network connectivity at both time points. DTI results revealed altered diffusion in the SRC group along a segment of the corticospinal tract and the superior longitudinal fasciculus in the acute phase of SRC. No differences between the SRC group and control group were seen at follow-up imaging. Conclusions: Acute effects of SRC are associated with both hyperconnectivity and hypoconnectivity, with disruption of white matter integrity. In addition, acute memory performance was most sensitive to these changes. After 21 days, adolescents with SRC returned to baseline performance, although chronic hyperconnectivity of these regions could place these adolescents at greater risk for secondary neuropathological changes, necessitating future follow-up. (JINS, 2018, 24, 781–792)
Objectives: As the number of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) surviving congenital heart disease (CHD) grows, studies of long-term outcomes are needed. CHD research documents poor executive function (EF) and cerebellum (CB) abnormalities in children. We examined whether AYAs with CHD exhibit reduced EF and CB volumes. We hypothesized a double dissociation such that the posterior CB is related to EF while the anterior CB is related to motor function. We also investigated whether the CB contributes to EF above and beyond processing speed. Methods: Twenty-two AYAs with CHD and 22 matched healthy controls underwent magnetic resonance imaging and assessment of EF, processing speed, and motor function. Volumetric data were calculated using a cerebellar atlas (SUIT) developed for SPM. Group differences were compared with t tests, relationships were tested with Pearson’s correlations and Fisher’s r to z transformation, and hierarchical regression was used to test the CB’s unique contributions to EF. Results: CHD patients had reduced CB total, lobular, and white matter volume (d=.52–.99) and poorer EF (d=.79–1.01) compared to controls. Significant correlations between the posterior CB and EF (r=.29–.48) were identified but there were no relationships between the anterior CB and motor function nor EF. The posterior CB predicted EF above and beyond processing speed (ps<.001). Conclusions: This study identified a relationship between the posterior CB and EF, which appears to be particularly important for inhibitory processes and abstract reasoning. The unique CB contribution to EF above and beyond processing speed alone warrants further study. (JINS, 2018, 24, 939–948)
Objectives: The cerebellum (CB) is known for its role in supporting processing speed (PS) and cognitive efficiencies. The CB often sustains damage from treatment and resection in pediatric patients with posterior fossa tumors. Limited research suggests that CB atrophy may be associated with the radiation treatment experienced during childhood. The purpose of the study was to measure cerebellar atrophy to determine its neurobehavioral correlates. Methods: Brain magnetic resonance images were collected from 25 adult survivors of CB tumors and age- and gender-matched controls (Mage=24 years (SD=5), 52% female). Average age at diagnosis was 9 years (SD=5) and average time since diagnosis was 15 years (SD=5). PS was measured by the Symbol Digit Modality Test. To quantify atrophy, an objective formula was developed based on prior literature, in which Atrophy=[(CB White+CB Gray Volume)/Intracranial Vault (ICV)]controls-[(CB White+CB Gray+Lesion Size Volume)/ICV]survivors. Results: Regression analyses found that the interaction term (age at diagnosis*radiation) predicts CB atrophy; regression equations included the Neurological Predictor Scale, lesion size, atrophy, and the interaction term and accounted for 33% of the variance in oral PS and 48% of the variance in written PS. Both interactions suggest that individuals with smaller CB lesion size but a greater degree of CB atrophy had slower PS, whereas individuals with a larger CB lesion size and less CB atrophy were less affected. Conclusion: The results of the current study suggest that young age at diagnosis and radiation is associated with CB atrophy, which interacts with lesion size to impact both written and oral PS. (JINS, 2016, 23, 1–11)
Adult survivors of childhood brain tumors are at risk for cognitive performance deficits that require the core cognitive skill of working memory. Our goal was to examine the neural mechanisms underlying working memory performance in survivors. We studied the working memory of adult survivors of pediatric posterior fossa brain tumors using a letter n-back paradigm with varying cognitive workload (0-, 1-, 2-, and 3-back) and functional magnetic resonance imaging as well as neuropsychological measures. Survivors of childhood brain tumors evidenced lower working memory performance than demographically matched healthy controls. Whole-brain analyses revealed significantly greater blood-oxygen level dependent (BOLD) activation in the left superior / middle frontal gyri and left parietal lobe during working memory (2-back versus 0-back contrast) in survivors. Left frontal BOLD response negatively correlated with 2- and 3-back working memory performance, Auditory Consonant Trigrams (ACT), and Digit Span Backwards. In contrast, parietal lobe BOLD response negatively correlated with 0-back (vigilance task) and ACT. The results revealed that adult survivors of childhood posterior fossa brain tumors recruited additional cognitive control resources in the prefrontal lobe during increased working memory demands. This increased prefrontal activation is associated with lower working memory performance and is consistent with the allocation of latent resources theory. (JINS, 2015, 21, 494–505)
White matter disruptions have been identified in individuals with congenital heart disease (CHD). However, no specific theory-driven relationships between microstructural white matter disruptions and cognition have been established in CHD. We conducted a two-part study. First, we identified significant differences in fractional anisotropy (FA) of emerging adults with CHD using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS). TBSS analyses between 22 participants with CHD and 18 demographically similar controls identified five regions of normal appearing white matter with significantly lower FA in CHD, and two higher. Next, two regions of lower FA in CHD were selected to examine theory-driven differential relationships with cognition: voxels along the left uncinate fasciculus (UF; a tract theorized to contribute to verbal memory) and voxels along the right middle cerebellar peduncle (MCP; a tract previously linked to attention). In CHD, a significant positive correlation between UF FA and memory was found, r(20)=.42, p=.049 (uncorrected). There was no correlation between UF and auditory attention span. A positive correlation between MCP FA and auditory attention span was found, r(20)=.47, p=.027 (uncorrected). There was no correlation between MCP and memory. In controls, no significant relationships were identified. These results are consistent with previous literature demonstrating lower FA in younger CHD samples, and provide novel evidence for disrupted white matter integrity in emerging adults with CHD. Furthermore, a correlational double dissociation established distinct white matter circuitry (UF and MCP) and differential cognitive correlates (memory and attention span, respectively) in young adults with CHD. (JINS, 2015, 21, 22–33)
Moderate and severe pediatric traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are associated with significant familial distress and child adaptive sequelae. Our aim was to examine the relationship between parental psychological distress, parenting practices (authoritarian, permissive, authoritative), and child adaptive functioning 12–36 months following TBI or orthopedic injury (OI). Injury type was hypothesized to moderate the relationship between parental distress and child adaptive functioning, demonstrating a significantly stronger relationship in the TBI relative to OI group. Authoritarian parenting practices were hypothesized to mediate relationship between parental distress and child adaptive functioning across groups. Groups (TBI n = 21, OI n = 23) did not differ significantly on age at injury, time since injury, sex, race, or SES. Parents completed the Brief Symptom Inventory, Parenting Practices Questionnaire, and Vineland-II. Moderation and mediation hypotheses were tested using hierarchical multiple regression and a bootstrapping approach, respectively. Results supported moderation and revealed that higher parental psychological distress was associated with lower child adaptive functioning in the TBI group only. Mediation results indicated that higher parental distress was associated with authoritarian parenting practices and lower adaptive functioning across groups. Results suggest that parenting practices are an important area of focus for studies attempting to elucidate the relationship between parent and child functioning following TBI. (JINS, 2012, 18, 343–350)
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