Memory Loss in a Child After Brain Tumor Treatment

Last Modified: September 18, 2013


My daughter had a brain tumor resected 4 yrs ago with no sign of regrowth. She has a VP shunt and some short term memory loss. I am looking for ways to help in her recovery- What specialists to see, maybe exercises to help memory or any tips!

Carol Armstrong, PhD, Director of Neuropsychology Lab, Neuro-Oncology Program at CHOP, responds:


It is very important that your daughter have a neuropsychological evaluation that includes extensive memory testing. Your daughter may have some memory processes that she can still use, and other memory processes over which she has no control, and you as a parent need to know in detail the nature of her memory difficulty. Memory is tricky, and schools are not well educated about how to help children with memory problems. The type of memory impairment is very important to understand, as working memory seems to respond to practice, while other memory impairments cannot be practiced, and need other methods to compensate for inability to encode or learn, or just retrieve, or there may be interference in memory, or a failure to consolidate memory over time. The problem may be in visual or in verbal memory. Keep these questions and give them to the neuropsychologist whom your child sees, as knowing the answers will help greatly to know how to help your child.

Rule of thumb - when a person has major memory impairment, do not cue them or set them up to possibly give a wrong answer, as that strengthens the connection between the question or item and the wrong answer. Find ways for the person to find the right answer quickly. Memory is not about locations in the brain, it is about networks and connections of what we know.
Also, study in short periods with 24-hr intervals between study sections maximizes how the brain makes new connections. Never long drills.