Neurocognitive Research Lab


Tim Ahles, PhD, Director

Most of the research in any area of neurocognitive side effects of cancer treatments is based on relatively small studies that have methodological limitations. Basic questions and issues remain unanswered and unaddressed, including:

  1. The prevalence of long-term cognitive problems following any given treatment.
  2. Which chemotherapy agents, doses of cranial radiation, etc. are most likely to cause neurocognitive changes?
  3. What cognitive domains are most likely to be affected by which treatments?
  4. What are the most appropriate neuropsychological tests for studying neurocognitive side effects of cancer treatments?

Additionally, the bulk of the research has been conducted on highly educated, affluent, Caucasian samples (primarily women); therefore, little is known about neurocognitive side effects of cancer treatments across various racial and socioeconomic groups. Therefore, there is a critical need for large scale, longitudinal studies of treatment-induced cognitive changes that include appropriate neuropsychological test batteries and comparison groups, and utilize appropriate statistical methods.

Memorial Sloan Kettering provides a unique environment for conducting these types of studies across various treatment types and cancer diagnoses. Excellent research in the areas of assessment and treatment of cognitive dysfunction in patients with brain tumors and CNS lymphoma (Denise Correa, PhD) and the evaluation of the cognitive impact of chemotherapy on elderly breast cancer patients is ongoing at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The Neurocognitive Research Laboratory, with Dr. Tim Ahles as Director, will support ongoing research in this area and expand the research into other areas as well.

Faculty Members
Affiliated Faculty
MSK psychologist Christian Nelson
Christian J. Nelson

Chief, Psychiatry Service

Active Research Studies
  • Ahles, T. A., Schofield, E., Li, Y., Ryan, E., Root, J. C., Patel, S. K., McNeal, K., Gaynor, A., Tan, H., Katheria, V., Vazquez, J., Traina, T., & Hurria, A. (2021). Relationship between cognitive functioning and frailty in older breast cancer survivors. J Geriatr Oncol. doi:10.1016/j.jgo.2021.07.011
  • Root, J. C., Pergolizzi, D., Pan, H., Orlow, I., Passik, S. D., Silbersweig, D., Stern, E., & Ahles, T. A. (2021). Prospective evaluation of functional brain activity and oxidative damage in breast cancer: changes in task-induced deactivation during a working memory task. Brain Imaging Behav, 15(3), 1364-1373. doi:10.1007/s11682-020-00335-1 PMC7855199 PMC7855199
  • Magnuson, A., Ahles, T., Chen, B. T., Mandelblatt, J., & Janelsins, M. C. (2021). Cognitive Function in Older Adults With Cancer: Assessment, Management, and Research Opportunities. J Clin Oncol, 39(19), 2138-2149. doi:10.1200/JCO.21.00239 PMC8260910 potential conflicts of interest were reported. PMC8260910 potential conflicts of interest were reported.
  • Melara, R. D., Root, J. C., Bibi, R., & Ahles, T. A. (2021). Sensory Filtering and Sensory Memory in Breast Cancer Survivors. Clin EEG Neurosci, 52(4), 246-253. doi:10.1177/1550059420971120
  • Gaynor, A. M., Ahles, T. A., Ryan, E., Schofield, E., Li, Y., Patel, S. K., McNeal, K., Traina, T., & Root, J. C. (2021). Initial encoding deficits with intact memory retention in older long-term breast cancer survivors. J Cancer Surviv. doi:10.1007/s11764-021-01086-8
  • Liou, K. T., Root, J. C., Garland, S. N., Green, J., Li, Y., Li, Q. S., Kantoff, P. W., Ahles, T. A., & Mao, J. J. (2020). Effects of acupuncture versus cognitive behavioral therapy on cognitive function in cancer survivors with insomnia: A secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial. Cancer, 126(13), 3042-3052. doi:10.1002/cncr.32847 PMC7992052 PMC7992052
  • Pergolotti, M., Battisti, N. M. L., Padgett, L., Sleight, A. G., Abdallah, M., Newman, R., Van Dyk, K., Covington, K. R., Williams, G. R., van den Bos, F., Pollock, Y., Salerno, E. A., Magnuson, A., Gattas-Vernaglia, I. F., & Ahles, T. A. (2020). Embracing the complexity: Older adults with cancer-related cognitive decline-A Young International Society of Geriatric Oncology position paper. J Geriatr Oncol, 11(2), 237-243. doi:10.1016/j.jgo.2019.09.002 PMC7054166 PMC7054166
  • Gaynor, A. M., Pergolizzi, D., Alici, Y., Ryan, E., McNeal, K., Ahles, T. A., & Root, J. C. (2020). Impact of transcranial direct current stimulation on sustained attention in breast cancer survivors: Evidence for feasibility, tolerability, and initial efficacy. Brain Stimul, 13(4), 1108-1116. doi:10.1016/j.brs.2020.04.013 PMC7446233 PMC7446233
  • Root, J. C., Campbell, C., Rocha-Cadman, X., Kasven-Gonzalez, N., Maloy, M., Flynn, J., Devlin, S. M., & Jakubowski, A. A. (2020). Pretransplantation Cognitive Dysfunction in Advanced-Age Hematologic Cancers: Predictors and Associated Outcomes. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. doi:10.1016/j.bbmt.2020.05.010
  • Ahles, T. A., & Root, J. C. (2018). Cognitive Effects of Cancer and Cancer Treatments. Annu Rev Clin Psychol, 14, 425-451. doi:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050817-084903
  • Root, J. C., Andreotti, C., Tsu, L., Ellmore, T. M., & Ahles, T. A. (2016). Learning and memory performance in breast cancer survivors 2 to 6 years post-treatment: the role of encoding versus forgetting. J Cancer Surviv, 10(3), 593-599. doi:10.1007/s11764-015-0505-4 PMC4864094
  • PMC4864094
  • Ahles, T. A., Root, J. C., & Ryan, E. L. (2012). Cancer- and cancer treatment-associated cognitive change: an update on the state of the science. J Clin Oncol, 30(30), 3675-3686. doi:10.1200/JCO.2012.43.0116 3675678
  • 3675678