Research finds that digital therapeutic app can ease symptoms of ‘chemo brain’ in breast cancer patients

A clinical trial at the University of Antwerp found that patients perceived an improvement in cognitive function after playing using MyCognition app.
By Tammy Lovell
06:49 am
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Credit: MyCognition

A study found that using the digital therapeutic app MyCognition can ease perception of cognitive decline in breast cancer patients. 

Around 75% of breast cancer patients report experiencing cognitive decline known as ‘chemo brain’ during or after treatment, according to research.

In a clinical trial at the University of Antwerp, between 2016 and 2020, experts investigated whether the app MyCognition is an effective approach to assess and improve cognitive decline, alongside standard care for the rehabilitation of breast cancer. 

A group of 46 self-selected patients aged between 18 and 71, who had complained of cognitive impairment played a game called ‘AquaSnap’ on the app at least three times a week for either six or three months. 

The app targets five cognitive domains – attention, working memory, episodic memory, executive function and processing speed.

Researchers concluded that although the study was too small to make recommendations, preliminary results showed that playing the game every day “had a beneficial effect on self-perception of cognitive complaints, as measured by the cognitive failure questionnaire (CFQ).” 

WHY IT MATTERS 

Cancer treatment-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) is extremely common and is often caused by the “inflammation” of systemic medication used in chemotherapy or radiotherapy. 

Cognitive complaints measured by CFQ include forgetfulness and distraction, lack of confidence, and indecisiveness in everyday life situations, and are linked to vulnerability to stress and mental illness.

THE LARGER TREND 

MyCognition is a UK-based company which researches, develops and creates digital therapeutics to measure and enhance cognitive fitness. Its apps have been approved by the NHS.

So-called ‘serious gaming’ has been utilised for a number of therapeutic interventions. One example is the Hopelab game Remission which helps young people with cancer adhere to their treatment.

Recently, Spanish digital therapeutics startup Braingaze announced it has designed a video-game called BGaze Bird to help reduce symptoms of ADHD in children, which will be launched in China.

ON THE RECORD 

Keiron Sparrowhawk, the neuroscientist who devised the MyCognition app, said: “Having a cancer diagnosis can be devastating but the impact on cognitive health is undoubtedly overlooked and seen as secondary to the impacts of stress and depression, whereas increasingly we see cognitive deficits as the cause of poor mental health. However, by managing and enhancing cognition, you can in turn improve mental health and decrease stress and depression.”

Dr Anne Bellens, from the oncology department at the University of Antwerp said: “Cognitive impairment can persist for many years after an individual’s breast cancer diagnosis. Our study revealed the significant impact that using the MyCognition app can have on improving cognitive health in women recovering from breast cancer.”

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