It has been hypothesized that breast cancer and its chemotherapy can impart functional neural changes via an overlap with biological mechanisms associated with aging. Here we used fMRI to assess whether changes in neural activity accompanying visual episodic memory encoding and retrieval suggest altered activations according to patterns seen in functional imaging of cognitive aging. In a prospective longitudinal design, breast cancer patients (n = 13) were scanned during memory encoding and retrieval before and after chemotherapy treatment, and compared to healthy-age matched controls (n = 13). Our results indicate that despite equivalent behavioral performance, encoding and retrieval resulted in increased activation of prefrontal regions for the breast cancer group compared to controls for both before and after chemotherapy treatment. This was accompanied by decreased activity in posterior brain regions after chemotherapy, particularly those involved in visual processing, for the breast cancer group compared to controls. These findings are discussed as evidence for a possible anterior shift in neural processing to compensate for deficiencies in posterior brain regions, consistent with an accelerated aging account. Cancer and chemotherapy can impact brain regions underlying episodic memory, leading to additional recruitment of control regions, which may be linked to mechanisms related to aging.
- Breast Cancer
- Episodic memory