PURPOSE - Pediatric brain tumors are the second most common cancer diagnosis in individuals under age 20 and research has documented significant neurocognitive, psychosocial, and emotional late effects. Associations among these deficits have not been adequately considered and the role of survivors' coping with stress in relation to deficits is unknown. Further, research has yet to examine neurobiological processes related to neurocognitive, psychosocial, and emotional difficulties in survivors through the use of functional neuroimaging.
METHOD - Questionnaire measures and functional neuroimaging were used to examine the neurocognitive, psychosocial, and emotional functioning and coping responses of survivors of pediatric brain tumors (N = 17; age 8-16) and healthy children (N = 15).
RESULTS - Survivors experienced elevated levels of psychosocial and behavioral/emotional difficulties relative to healthy controls and normative data. Increases in brain activation in prefrontal and other anterior regions in response to a working memory task were associated with better psychosocial functioning, use of engagement coping strategies, and less use of disengagement coping strategies. Regression analyses suggest coping accounts for a significant portion of the association between brain activation and behavioral/emotional functioning.
CONCLUSIONS - This study extends late-effects research by examining neurobiological processes associated with psychosocial and emotional difficulties. These findings contribute to our understanding of difficulties in survivors and provide a foundation for research exploring these associations and mediators of deficits in future longitudinal studies.