A type of functional brain training known as neurofeedback shows promise in reducing symptoms of chemotherapy-induced nerve damage, or neuropathy, in cancer survivors, according to a study by researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The study is the largest, to date, to determine the benefits of neurofeedback in cancer survivors.
Chronic chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is caused by damage to the nerves that control sensation and movement in arms and legs. CIPN affects between 71 and 96% of patients one month after chemotherapy is administered. Symptoms include pain, burning, tingling and loss of feeling, said Sarah Prinsloo, Ph.D., assistant professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine.
Prinsloo in previous research identified the location of brain activity that contributes to the physical and emotional aspects of chronic pain. By targeting brain areas that are active during pain episodes, neurofeedback teaches participants to understand pain signals differently.
For this study, Prinsloo and fellow researchers developed training protocols which allow patients to retrain their own brain activity through electroencephalogram (EEG) neurofeedback. The EEG tracks and records brain wave signals, which are sent to a computer and displayed for participants, who receive visual and auditory rewards when making targeted adjustments to brain wave patterns.
“We observed clinically and statistically significant reductions in peripheral neuropathy following neurofeedback techniques,” said Prinsloo. “This research suggests that neurofeedback may be a valuable approach to reduce neuropathy symptoms and their impact on daily activities.”
This is especially meaningful, she said, because there currently is only one approved medication to treat CIPN, but it’s associated with muscle aches and nausea.
Read more about this study in MD Anderson’s newsroom.