Neurofeedback, a type of functional brain training, may reduce the symptoms of chemotherapy-induced nerve damage in patients with cancer according to a recent study published in the journal Cancer.1

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is accompanied by pain, burning, tingling, and loss of feeling and is caused by damage to the nerves that control movement in the arms and legs. It affects an estimated 71% to 96% of patients with cancer 1 month after receiving chemotherapy.

“There is currently only one approved medication to treat CIPN, and it has associated muscle aches and nausea. Neurofeedback has no known negative side effects, can be used in combination with other treatments, and is reasonably cost effective,” said Sarah Prinsloo, PhD, assistant professor of Palliative Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine and the lead researcher in this study.

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The randomized control study consisted of 71 cancer patients who were at least 3 months postchemotherapy with a score of more than 3 on the National Cancer Institute’s neuropathy rating scale. Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) interface, researchers measured brain activity of previously identified brain regions that contribute to physical and emotional aspects of chronic pain. Brain wave signals were displayed on a computer to patients who were trained over the course of 20 sessions using a computer game to modify their brain wave activity.

Patients were given visual and auditory rewards for brain wave modifications, and eventually were able to modify their brain activity without the need for rewards. At the end of the study patients who underwent neurofeedback treatment had significantly reduced Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) scores for worst pain, activity interference, numbness, tingling, and unpleasantness compared with the control group.

The study did not include a placebo group and consisted of mostly breast cancer survivors. The authors concluded by studying areas typically active during placebo use that placebo effect was not the only contributing factor to symptom relief.


1. Prinsloo S, Novy D, Driver L, et al. Randomized controlled trial of neurofeedback on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy: a pilot study. Cancer. 2017 Mar 3. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30649 [Epub ahead of print]