Long-term effects of cranial irradiation and intrathecal chemotherapy in treatment of childhood leukemia: a MEG study of power spectrum and correlated cognitive dysfunction

Marita Daams, Ilse Schuitema, Bob W. van Dijk, Eline van Dulmen-den Broeder, Anjo J. P. Veerman, Cor van den Bos, Leo M. J. de Sonneville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

130 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Prophylaxis to prevent relapses in the central nervous system after childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) used to consist of both intrathecal chemotherapy (CT) and cranial irradiation (CRT). CRT was mostly abolished in the eighties because of its neurotoxicity, and replaced with more intensive intrathecal CT. In this study, a group of survivors treated with CRT before 1983 and another group treated without CRT thereafter are investigated 20-25 years later, giving a much stronger perspective on long-term quality of life than previous studies. The outcomes will help to better understand these groups' current needs and will aid in anticipating late effects of prophylactic CRT that is currently applied for other diseases. This study evaluates oscillatory neuronal activity in these long-term survivors. Power spectrum deviations are hypothesized to correlate with cognitive dysfunction. Methods: Resting state eyes-closed magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings were obtained from 14 ALL survivors treated with CT + CRT, 18 treated with CT alone and 35 controls. Relative spectral power was calculated in the delta, theta, alpha 1, alpha 2, beta and gamma frequency bands. The Amsterdam Neuropsychological Tasks (ANT) program was used to assess cognition in the executive functions domain. MEG data and ANT scores were correlated. Results: In the CT + CRT group, relative. power was slightly increased (p = 0.069) and alpha 2 power was significantly decreased (p = 0.006). The CT + CRT group performed worse on various cognitive tests. A deficiency in visuomotor accuracy, especially of the right hand, could be clearly associated with the deviating regional theta and alpha 2 powers (0.471 <r <0.697). A significant association between decreased regional alpha 2 power and less attentional fluctuations was found for CT + CRT patients as well as controls (0.078 <r <0.666). Patients treated with CT alone displayed a power spectrum similar to controls, except for a significantly increased level of left frontal alpha 2 power (p = 0.030). Conclusions: The tendency towards global slowing of brain oscillatory activity, together with the fact that dementia has been reported as a late effect of CRT and the neuropsychological deficiencies currently present, suggest that the irradiated brain might be aging faster and could be at risk for early-onset dementia. The CT group showed no signs of early aging
Original languageEnglish
Article number84
Pages (from-to)84
JournalBMC Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this