Working memory and attention in pediatric brain tumor patients treated with and without radiation therapy

Kimberly P. Raghubar, E. Mark Mahone, Keith Owen Yeates, Kim M. Cecil, Monwabisi Makola, M. Douglas Ris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Children are at risk for cognitive difficulties following the diagnosis and treatment of a brain tumor. Longitudinal studies have consistently demonstrated declines on measures of intellectual functioning, and recently it has been proposed that specific neurocognitive processes underlie these changes, including working memory, processing speed, and attention. However, a fine-grained examination of the affected neurocognitive processes is required to inform intervention efforts. Radiation therapy (RT) impacts white matter integrity, likely affecting those cognitive processes supported by distributed neural networks. This study examined working memory and attention in children during the early delayed stages of recovery following surgical resection and RT. The participants included 27 children diagnosed with pediatric brain tumor, treated with (n = 12) or without (n = 15) RT, who completed experimental and standardized measures of working memory and attention (n-back and digit span tasks). Children treated with radiation performed less well than those who did not receive radiation on the n-back measure, though performance at the 0-back level was considerably poorer than would be expected for both groups, perhaps suggesting difficulties with more basic processes such as vigilance. Along these lines, marginal differences were noted on digit span forward. The findings are discussed with respect to models of attention and working memory, and the interplay between the two.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)642-654
Number of pages13
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 18 2017


  • Attention
  • Brain tumor
  • Pediatric
  • Radiation therapy
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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