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A Home Physical Activity Program to Improve Cognitive Late Effects in Children Treated with Radiation for Brain Tumors

National Cancer Institute
Pamela Wolters, PhD
Grant Type: 
Psychosocial Family Impact Grant
Year Awarded: 
Type of Childhood Cancer: 
Brain Tumors
Project Description: 

Children treated with cranial radiation therapy (CRT) for brain tumors may develop cognitive problems, including inattention, poor memory and slow processing speed. CRT damages brain structures and decreases the growth of neurons in brain areas related to these cognitive functions. Difficulties in these cognitive skills may negatively impact learning and quality of life. However, research to improve or prevent these problems is limited. The cognitive functions impaired by CRT are similar to ones affected in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); therefore, interventions for ADHD also might help children with brain tumors. Research shows that physical activity (PA) improves the attention of children with ADHD, promotes neuron growth in mice and increases the amount of a protein in the brain that facilitates learning and memory. Interventions using PA improved the cognitive and academic outcomes of children, including those with physical and learning difficulties. PA interventions are safe and enhanced the health and well-being of adults and children with cancer and also demonstrated neuron growth in the brains of children treated with CRT. 

Project Goal
Since PA has beneficial effects on CRT-damaged brain areas, research is needed to evaluate interventions designed to make exercise a regular part of children's everyday lives and to assess the effects on cognitive function. The study's main goal is to evaluate a new home program using age-appropriate activity trackers to increase PA and improve the cognitive functions of children treated with CRT for brain tumors. Effective interventions would improve the long-term outcomes of these children.

Co-Investigators: Katherine Warren, MD and Staci Martin, PhD