Neurocognitive deficits following primary brain tumor treatment: systematic review of a decade of comparative studies

J Neurooncol. 2013 Nov;115(2):135-42. doi: 10.1007/s11060-013-1215-2. Epub 2013 Aug 23.


There has been an increase in the prevalence of adults diagnosed with and treated for primary brain tumors. Cognitive deficits are a common long-term effect in brain tumor survivors. The objective of this paper is to examine whether these deficits are specific to those diagnosed with and treated for a primary brain tumor. A systematic review of the medical literature from 2002 to 2012 was conducted to investigate neurocognitive deficits in brain tumor survivors (post-primary treatment) compared to healthy controls. Four studies were identified that met all inclusion criteria. Gliomas were the most common form of tumor included. Neuropsychological evaluation identified cognitive deficits in brain tumor survivors on tests of working memory, cognitive control and flexibility, cognitive processing speed, visual searching, planning and foresight, and general attention. While age, education, and gender can influence cognitive function, the present review indicates that deficits exist beyond those accounted for by these factors. Many primary brain tumor survivors are involved in roles (e.g., employee, parent, spouse/partner, student) that require optimal performance of these cognitive skills. Future research should evaluate brain tumor survivors on functional challenges resulting from these cognitive sequelae and develop effective ways to mitigate them.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*


  • Antineoplastic Agents