Chemo Brain and Neurofeedback

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are designed to attack and kill cancer cells.  Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, healthy cells are also often attacked and killed. This is one of the reasons these therapies often create unwanted side effects.

During and after chemotherapy treatment, many cancer patients experience feelings of brain fog, fuzzy thinking, or memory difficulties known as chemo brain. Frequently, the effects of chemo brain continue long after the chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment has ended.  

Chemo brain can include symptoms such as:

  • Being unusually disorganized
  • Confusion, lack of mental focus
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Mental fogginess
  • Short attention span
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Longer than usual completing routine tasks
  • Difficulty with verbal memory, such as recalling conversations or finding the right words.
  • Difficulty with visual memory, such as remembering images or lists

These symptoms can vary from being an inconvenience to disrupting a person’s entire quality of life and mental function. Search the internet for information from the medical field for chemo brain remedies and you find suggestions for developing coping mechanisms, such as:

  • Use a detailed daily planner, notebooks, reminder notes, or your smart phone. 
  • Do the most demanding tasks when your energy level is highest. 
  • Exercise your brain: learn new skills, take a class, play word games, etc. 
  • Get enough rest and sleep.
  • Engage in regular physical activity; it improves mood, alertness and decreases feelings of fatigue.
  • Eat more veggies. Studies have shown that eating more vegetables is linked to optimal brain power.
  • Focus on one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking.
  • Avoid alcohol and other agents that affect mental state and sleep 
  • Keep a diary to track problems (time of day, medications, and what’s going on at the time). This record is useful for developing effective coping skills and discussing problems with your doctor. 

While learning to cope with the effects of chemo brain is certainly important, the question people suffering with chemo brain want answered is: Can chemo brain actually be healed? 

Fortunately, the answer is YES! 

Neurofeedback is a treatment and therapy that has been shown to diminish and/or eliminate the symptoms associated with chemo brain. Neurofeedback improves brain function by changing brainwave activity and aids healing of brain injury and chemo brain. Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback.

The study of biofeedback began with laboratory research with animals in the 1940’s.  By the 1970’s it was being used successfully on human patients to promote muscle relaxation and ease pain, reduce anxiety, and was found to be effective in reducing blood pressure and changing brainwave patterns.   

In 2008, three renowned scientific organizations worked together to develop the following definition of biofeedback:

“Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately “feed back” information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.” 

Neurofeedback improves brain function by changing brainwave patterns that are out-of-sync.  Non-invasive, painless sensors—called electrodes—are placed on the surface of the head.  These electrodes do not have needles and do not produce or introduce electrical current.  The electrodes enable brainwave patterns to be amplified and displayed upon a computer screen.

Depending on the type of neurofeedback program, the patient may see actual brainwave patterns, hear sounds, watch objects or movies that start or stop depending upon brainwave activity, or “play” video games.  Through the feedback of sounds, watching patterns or “playing” video games, brain function improves.  

In my practice, I have personally provided neurofeedback to aid patients suffering from lack of focus or concentration, distractibility, memory problems, and other symptoms associated with chemo brain. I invite you to investigate my website further to learn more about neurofeedback and to watch the 30-minute video presentation found on this website. 

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chemo-brain/symptoms-causes/syc-20351060

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/changes-in-mood-or-thinking/chemo-brain.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofeedback

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