Children who receive cancer treatments may suffer thinking problems later, but using an at-home computer training program can help reduce these deficits, according to a new study.
“This is the only computerized training so far in childhood cancer survivors,” said lead author Heather M. Conklin of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
The study included 68 survivors of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a blood cancer, or brain tumors, who had all survived at least one year after their cancer treatment ended. All of the children had thinking or memory problems reported by their parents.
On average, the participants were 12 years old, and had completed cancer treatment about five years earlier. They were randomly separated into two groups, one receiving the computer training program, another put on a “waitlist” to serve as a comparison.
The first group was asked to complete 25 at-home sessions with the Cogmed program over five to nine weeks. These sessions, 30 to 45 minutes each, included visual-spatial games or working memory games. The children also had weekly coaching phone calls to collect feedback and offer motivation to keep using the program.
Some kids who were making slower progress took advantage of five extra sessions.