BACKGROUND: Childhood infratentorial tumor patients frequently suffer from long-term cognitive deficits. As each constituent of their treatment can lead to neurotoxicity, cascade effects can lead to profound reorganization of the underlying brain network, the so-called 'connectome'. However, to date, few studies have assessed the relationship between brain network topology, the functional role of network hubs (i.e. highly connected regions), and neurocognitive outcomes in adult survivors of childhood infratentorial tumors.

METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, childhood infratentorial tumor survivors (n = 21: pilocytic astrocytoma (n = 8), ependymoma (n = 1) and medulloblastoma (n = 12)) and healthy controls (n = 21) were recruited. Using multishell diffusion-weighted MRI, microstructural organization and topology of supratentorial white matter was investigated; using a voxel-based approach, a fixel-based analysis, and a graph theoretical approach. In addition, neurocognitive subscales of the WAIS-IV intelligence test, and their relationship with nodal strength and network efficiency metrics were assessed.

RESULTS: Similar to earlier studies, we observed widespread decreases in fractional anisotropy (FA) in patients compared to controls, based on voxel-based analyses. In addition, the fixel-based analyses dissociated macro- from microstructural changes, which were encountered in in infratentorial versus supratentorial brain areas, respectively. Finally, regional reorganization (i.e. differences in local efficiency) occurred mainly in hubs, which suggests a specific vulnerability of these areas. These hubs were not only mostly affected, but also most strongly correlated with the intelligence subscales.

CONCLUSION: This study suggests that network hubs are functionally important for intellectual outcomes in infratentorial tumor survivors. Furthermore, these regions could be the primary targets of treatment toxicity. Validation of this specific hypothesis in larger samples is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-125
Number of pages8
JournalRadiotherapy and oncology : journal of the European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology
Early online date4 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


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