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Functional MRI in medulloblastoma survivors supports prophylactic reading intervention during tumor treatment

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Abstract

Development of reading skills is vulnerable to disruption in children treated for brain tumors. Interventions, remedial and prophylactic, are needed to mitigate reading and other learning difficulties faced by survivors. A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was conducted to investigate long-term effects of a prophylactic reading intervention administered during radiation therapy in children treated for medulloblastoma. The fMRI study included 19 reading-intervention (age 11.7 ± 0.6 years) and 21 standard-of-care (age 12.1 ± 0.6 years) medulloblastoma survivors, and 21 typically developing children (age 12.3 ± 0.6 years). The survivors were 2.5 [1.2, 5.4] years after completion of tumor therapies and reading-intervention survivors were 2.9 [1.6, 5.9] years after intervention. Five fMRI tasks (Rapid Automatized Naming, Continuous Performance Test using faces and letters, orthographic and phonological processing of letter pairs, implicit word reading, and story reading) were used to probe reading-related neural activation. Woodcock-Johnson Reading Fluency, Word Attack, and Sound Awareness subtests were used to evaluate reading abilities. At the time of fMRI, Sound Awareness scores were significantly higher in the reading-intervention group than in the standard-of-care group (p = 0.046). Brain activation during the fMRI tasks was detected in left inferior frontal, temporal, ventral occipitotemporal, and subcortical regions, and differed among the groups (p < 0.05, FWE). The pattern of group activation differences, across brain areas and tasks, was a normative trend in the reading-intervention group. Standardized reading scores and patterns of brain activation provide evidence of long-term effects of prophylactic reading intervention in children treated for medulloblastoma.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Cancer Center Support (CORE) grant CA21765 from the National Cancer Institute, grant HD049888 from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, grant RR029005 from the National Center for Research Resources, and by ALSAC.

Conflict of interest

Ping Zou, Heather M. Conklin, Matthew A. Scoggins, Yimei Li, Xingyu Li, Melissa M. Jones, Shawna L. Palmer, Amar Gaggar, and Robert J. Ogg declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, and the applicable revisions at the time of the investigation. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

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Zou, P., Conklin, H.M., Scoggins, M.A. et al. Functional MRI in medulloblastoma survivors supports prophylactic reading intervention during tumor treatment. Brain Imaging and Behavior 10, 258–271 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-015-9390-8

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