, Volume 108, Issue 2, pp 231-237,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 14 Feb 2012

Factors affecting the cerebral network in brain tumor patients

Abstract

Brain functions, including cognitive functions, are frequently disturbed in brain tumor patients. These disturbances may result from the tumor itself, but also from the treatment directed against the tumor. Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy all may affect cerebral functioning, both in a positive as well as in a negative way. Apart from the anti-tumor treatment, glioma patients often receive glucocorticoids and anti-epileptic drugs, which both also have influence on brain functioning. The effect of a brain tumor on cerebral functioning is often more global than should be expected on the basis of the local character of the disease, and this is thought to be a consequence of disturbance of the cerebral network as a whole. Any network, whether it be a neural, a social or an electronic network, can be described in parameters assessing the topological characteristics of that particular network. Repeated assessment of neural network characteristics in brain tumor patients during their disease course enables study of the dynamics of neural networks and provides more insight into the plasticity of the diseased brain. Functional MRI, electroencephalography and especially magnetoencephalography are used to measure brain function and the signals that are being registered with these techniques can be analyzed with respect to network characteristics such as “synchronization” and “clustering”. Evidence accumulates that loss of optimal neural network architecture negatively impacts complex cerebral functioning and also decreases the threshold to develop epileptic seizures. Future research should be focused on both plasticity of neural networks and the factors that have impact on that plasticity as well as the possible role of assessment of neural network characteristics in the determination of cerebral function during the disease course.