Impaired recent, but preserved remote, autobiographical memory in pediatric brain tumor patients (2018)


Medulloblastomas, the most common malignant brain tumor in children, are typically treated with radiotherapy. Refinement of this treatment has greatly improved survival rates in this patient population. However, radiotherapy also profoundly affects the developing brain and is associated with reduced hippocampal volume and blunted hippocampal neurogenesis.Such hippocampal (as well as extrahippocampal) abnormalities likely contribute to cognitive impairments in this population. While several aspects of memory have been examined in this population, the impact of radiotherapy on autobiographical memory has not previously been evaluated. Here we evaluated autobiographical memory in male and female patients who received radiotherapy for posterior fossa tumors (PFTs), includin gmedulloblastoma, during childhood. Using the Children’s Autobiographical Interview, we retrospectively assessed episodic and nonepisodic details for events that either preceded (i.e., remote) or followed (i.e., recent) treatment. For post-treatment events, PFT patients reportedfewer episodic details compared with control subjects. For pretreatment events, PFT patients reported equivalent episodic details compared with control subjects. In a range of conditions associated with reduced hippocampal volume (including medial temporal lobe amnesia, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, temporal lobe epilepsy, transient epileptic amnesia, frontal temporal dementia, traumatic brain injury, encephalitis, and aging), loss of episodic details (even in remote memories) accompanies hippocampal volume loss. It istherefore surprisingthat pretreatment episodic memories in PFT patients with reduced hippocampal volume are retained. We discuss these findings in light of the anterograde and retrograde impact on memory of experimentally suppressing hippocampal neurogenesis in rodents.

In Journal of Neuroscience