Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 135, Issue 3, pp 799–809 | Cite as

Advanced cognitive training for breast cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial

  • Diane Von AhEmail author
  • Janet S. Carpenter
  • Andrew Saykin
  • Patrick Monahan
  • Jingwei Wu
  • Menggang Yu
  • George Rebok
  • Karlene Ball
  • Bryan Schneider
  • Michael Weaver
  • Eileen Tallman
  • Fred Unverzagt
Clinical Trial


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the preliminary efficacy and satisfaction/acceptability of training in memory or speed of processing versus wait-list control for improving cognitive function in breast cancer survivors. 82 breast cancer survivors completed a three-group randomized, controlled trial. Primary outcomes were objective neuropsychological tests of memory and speed of processing. Secondary outcomes were perceived cognitive functioning, symptom distress (mood disturbance, anxiety, and fatigue), quality of life, and intervention satisfaction/acceptability. Data were collected at baseline, post-intervention, and 2-month follow-up. Using repeated-measures mixed-linear ANCOVA models, each intervention was compared to wait-list control while adjusting for age, education, and baseline measures. The effect sizes for differences in means and the reliable improvement percentage were reported. The results show that domain-specific effects were seen for both interventions: memory training improved memory performance at 2-month follow-up (p = 0.036, d = 0.59); speed of processing training improved processing speed post-intervention (p = 0.040, d = 0.55) and 2-month follow-up (p = 0.016; d = 0.67). Transfer effects to non-trained domains were seen for speed of processing training with improved memory post-intervention (p = 0.007, d = 0.75) and 2-month follow-up (p = 0.004, d = 0.82). Both interventions were associated with improvements in perceived cognitive functioning, symptom distress, and quality of life. Ratings of satisfaction/acceptability were high for both interventions. It was concluded that while both interventions appeared promising, speed of processing training resulted in immediate and durable improvements in objective measures of processing speed and verbal memory. Speed of processing training may have broader benefits in this clinical population.


Memory Speed of processing Breast cancer survivors Symptom distress Quality of life 



This study was supported by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar Program (#64194), American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (#84-002-25), Indiana University School of Nursing Center for Enhancing Quality of Life in Chronic Illness and the Mary Margaret Walther Program of the Walther Cancer Institute (#0097.01). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded this trial. The funding agency had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data; or preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript. Dr. Patrick Monahan had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. Posit Science Corporation is the developer of the speed of processing (Insight®) program used in this study. Posit Science Corporation holds the patent for and a proprietary interest in this software. The software was provided at cost of the CD by Posit Science. Dr. Karlene Ball is on the Board of Directors of Posit Science and has stock in the company. Dr. Unverzagt has received support for training for an investigator initiated research from Posit Science.

Ethical approval

This study was conducted in accordance with all laws of the United States and the study was approved by the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center Scientific Review Group and Institutional Review Board in which was conducted.

Supplementary material

10549_2012_2210_MOESM1_ESM.doc (760 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 760 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane Von Ah
    • 1
    Email author
  • Janet S. Carpenter
    • 1
  • Andrew Saykin
    • 2
  • Patrick Monahan
    • 2
  • Jingwei Wu
    • 2
  • Menggang Yu
    • 3
  • George Rebok
    • 4
  • Karlene Ball
    • 5
  • Bryan Schneider
    • 2
  • Michael Weaver
    • 1
  • Eileen Tallman
    • 1
  • Fred Unverzagt
    • 2
  1. 1.School of NursingIndiana UniversityIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.School of MedicineIndiana UniversityIndianapolisUSA
  3. 3.University of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  4. 4.John Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  5. 5.University of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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