Purpose of review: Brain tumor patients suffer from cognitive deficits, regardless of tumor grade or location. Deficits have a general character, falling in the domains of attention, working memory, information processing speed, and executive functioning. This review explores a new, brain network-based view of these deficits in brain tumor patients.
Recent findings: Network theory has evolved within the fields of mathematics and sociology and has resulted in its application to many complex systems, such as social networks, traffic flow networks, and biological protein networks. In the brain, a network can be constructed by assessing either functional or anatomical connections between brain areas, and subsequently extracting their overarching network patterns. Important brain network features are local specialization, operationalized by local clustering, and global integration or path length. Widespread disturbances in network topology are found in brain tumor patients, which relate to their cognitive problems. Furthermore, changes in network topology in response to oncological interventions, particularly tumor resection, go hand in hand with cognitive outcome.
Summary: Cognitive deficits in brain tumor patients are reflected in whole-brain network disturbances. Possible future clinical use of these findings mostly concerns prognostics and tailoring treatment strategies.