The world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas has found a potentially new way to increase the quality of life and reduce the pain experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
The results of the study were presented to the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, in Colorado.
Doctors first pinpointed the parts of the brain that influence the physical and emotional aspects of chronic pain. This meant that patients were then able to modify their brain activity through electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback. EEG tracks and records brain wave patterns by attaching small metal discs with thin wires on the scalp and then sending signals to a computer to record the results.
Chronic chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is experienced by almost all patients after a month of chemotherapy treatment. The symptoms include pain, burning, tingling and loss of feeling caused by damage to nerves that control the sensations and movements of our arms and legs.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and change existing ones. This study demonstrated that neurofeedback induces neuroplasticity to modulate brain activity and improve CIPN symptoms.
Doctors ran a randomised trial with 71 patients, all of whom had been given chemotherapy at least three months previously. The patients given neurofeedback treatment attended 20 sessions during which they played a computer game that rewarded them if they modified their brainwave activity.
Further assessments showed that neurofeedback significantly reduced pain, numbness and other symptoms, and improved most patients’ quality of life.