Regional brain glucose metabolism and neurocognitive function in adult survivors of childhood cancer treated with cranial radiation

J Nucl Med. 2014 Nov;55(11):1805-10. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.114.142950. Epub 2014 Oct 14.


The objective of this study was to examine associations between regional brain metabolism, as measured by (18)F-FDG PET, and neurocognitive outcomes in adult survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treated with cranial radiation.

Method: Thirty-eight adult survivors of ALL were randomly selected from a large cohort treated with cranial radiation therapy (19 with 18 Gy and 19 with 24 Gy of exposure). At a mean age of 26.4 (range, 22.3-37.4) years, and 23.5 (range, 20.4-32.8) years since diagnosis, patients underwent comprehensive neurocognitive evaluations and brain (18)F-FDG PET imaging during a resting condition. (18)F-FDG PET images were analyzed stereotactically, and pixel values were normalized to global activity. Predefined region-of-interest and voxel-based correlation analyses were performed.

Results: Compared with national norms, survivors demonstrated lower vocabulary (P < 0.001), reading (P < 0.001), mathematics (P < 0.001), working memory (P < 0.001), oral naming speed (P < 0.001), and cognitive flexibility (P < 0.001). Metabolic activity was higher in basal gangliar structures for those treated with 24 Gy of cranial radiation therapy (P = 0.04). Metabolic activity was positively correlated with oral naming speed in both lateral frontal lobes (ρ = 0.48 and 0.47 for right and left frontal regions, respectively, P < 0.01) and negatively correlated with cognitive flexibility in the sections of the basal ganglia (P < 0.01 for both caudate and putamen).

Conclusion: Neurocognitive impairment in long-term survivors of ALL treated with cranial radiation appears to be associated with increased metabolic activity in frontal cerebral cortical and subcortical regions in the basal ganglia, suggesting decreased efficiency of the frontostriatal brain circuit.

Keywords: 18F-FDG PET; childhood cancer survivor; neurocognitive function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / radiation effects
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multimodal Imaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / radiotherapy*
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose