Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on cancer-related cognitive impairment: Results of a randomized controlled functional magnetic resonance imaging pilot study

Katleen Van der Gucht, Soumaya Ahmadoun, Michelle Melis, Ellen de Cloe, Charlotte Sleurs, Ahmed Radwan, Jeroen Blommaert, Keisuke Takano, Mathieu Vandenbulcke, Hans Wildiers, Patrick Neven, Peter Kuppens, Filip Raes, Ann Smeets, Stefan Sunaert, Sabine Deprez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Many breast cancer survivors suffer from cognitive complaints after cancer treatment, affecting their quality of life. The objective of this pilot study was to investigate the effect of a blended-care mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) on chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment and functional brain changes. Furthermore, correlations between changes in cognitive functioning and self-reported behavioral factors were investigated.

METHODS: Breast cancer survivors (n = 33) who reported cognitive impairment were randomly allocated to a mindfulness condition (n = 18) or a waitlist control condition (n = 15). Patients completed questionnaires on cognitive impairment, emotional distress, and fatigue; neuropsychological tests; and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging before the start of MBI (time 1 [T1]), immediately after the completion of an 8-week MBI program (T2), and 3 months postintervention (T3). Resting-state functional connectivity was estimated in the default mode network, the dorsal and salience attention networks, and the frontoparietal network. Mixed model repeated-measures analysis was performed to test the intervention effect.

RESULTS: Patients in the mindfulness condition exhibited significantly higher connectivity between the dorsal and salience attention networks after the mindfulness intervention compared with those in the control condition. MBI participants also had reduced subjective cognitive impairment, emotional distress, and fatigue. No intervention effect was observed on neurocognitive tests.

CONCLUSIONS: MBI may induce functional brain changes in networks related to attention and may have a positive effect on subjective measures of cognitive impairment in breast cancer survivors. Therefore, MBI could be a suitable intervention to improve quality of life in this population and deserves further study in this context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4246-4255
Number of pages10
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognitive Dysfunction/psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness/methods
  • Pilot Projects
  • Young Adult

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