Training cognitive control to reduce emotional vulnerability in breast cancer

Psychooncology. 2018 Jul;27(7):1780-1786. doi: 10.1002/pon.4727. Epub 2018 May 11.


Objectives: Breast cancer enhances anxiety and depressive vulnerability, profoundly impairing the quality of life in survivors. Hinging on recent research that training attentional control can reduce emotional vulnerability, we assess how improving cognitive function could reduce emotional vulnerability in female survivors of breast cancer.

Methods: Participants took part in a course of adaptive dual n-back cognitive training (Training Group) or a non-adaptive active control group (Active Control) for 12 days across a 2-week period. Transfer-related training gains were assessed immediately after the intervention, at a shorter 1-month follow-up and at a longer follow-up time of approximately 15 months post intervention, to assess sustainability of training effects.

Results: Adaptive cognitive training reduced anxiety and rumination with effects evident at shorter and longer term follow-up assessments.

Conclusions: Our results are among the first to suggest that adaptive cognitive training can reduce emotional vulnerability in breast cancer, with the potential to enhance quality of life in survivorship. Our findings have profound implications for designing interventions targeting cognitive function in populations who have suffered from cancer.

Keywords: anxiety; attentional control; breast cancer; cognitive training; psycho-oncology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*