Anatomical brain MRI study of pediatric cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy: Correlation with behavioral measures

Christine Cahaney, Patricia Stefancin, Kelly Coulehan, Robert I. Parker, Thomas Preston, Jessica Goldstein, Laura Hogan, Timothy Q. Duong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The negative impacts of chemotherapy on pediatric patients treated with chemotherapy during the formative years of brain development are understudied compared to adult chemotherapy cancer patients. This work investigated the morphometry, cortical thickness, and subcortical volumes using MRI and their correlations with behavioral measures in pediatric oncology survivors treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy-treated childhood cancer survivors (N = 15, 15.12 ± 5.98 years old) diagnosed with a non-central nervous system malignancy and healthy age-matched controls (N = 15, 15.13 ± 4.21 years old) were studied. MRI was acquired at 3 Tesla. Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF) Parental Rating, Purdue Pegboard manual dexterity and n-back working memory measures were administered. Structural MRI scans at 3 Tesla were acquired. Voxel-based morphometry, cortical thickness and subcortical volumes were analyzed and correlated with behavioral scores. Parametric statistics with a p < .05 and adjusted for multiple comparison corrections were performed. Patients exhibited significantly smaller gray-matter volumes in the left globus pallidum, bilateral thalami, left caudate and left nucleus accumbens (p < .05) and thinner cortex in the right parahippocampal gyrus (p < .05) compared to controls. BRIEF scores were similar to normative values. Purdue Pegboard revealed manual dexterity deficits compared to normative values, and the n-back task showed working-memory deficits in patients compared to controls. Left thalamus volume positively correlated with dexterity performance (p = .029). The number of correct answers positively correlated and the number of incorrect answers negatively correlated with total-brain and white-matter volume (p < .05), but not gray-matter volume (p >. 05). Our results support the hypothesis that the neurotoxicity of systemic chemotherapy has widespread negative effects on brain development in pediatric oncology patients with relatively mild cognitive deficits. MRI identified neuroanatomical changes have the potential to provide neural correlates of the sequelae associated with pediatric chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-13
Number of pages6
JournalMagnetic Resonance Imaging
StatePublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Chemobrain
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cognitive late effects
  • Magnetic resonance imaging


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