Building Resilience in Breast Cancer Centre

Our Research

Our research aims to build resilience in women who’ve been diagnosed with primary as well as secondary breast cancer.

Using a range of neuroscientific methods, BRiC conducts cutting edge research to reduce the psychological impact of diagnosis and treatment and boost resilience in women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. Based on evidence that impairments in cognitive flexibility and attentional control can make us vulnerable to anxiety and depression, BRiC’s research targets these brain mechanisms through adaptive cognitive training interventions shown to reduce anxiety and depression and empower women with the tools they need to build resilience.

BRiC’s novel research findings have been published in high impact factor international journals with practical implications for policy and change. For a glimpse of what we do see below for more.

BRiC’s Research has shown that:

  1. Our cognitive health can play an important role in determining our levels of anxiety and depression (see here)
  2. Using imaging methods, women with a breast cancer diagnosis show patterns of cognitive inefficiency, which necessitates the greater need for compensatory effort when completing simple tasks. This contributes to the cognitive deficits like memory and attention failures commonly reported (see here).
  3. Simple cognitive exercises targeting brain efficiency can improve cognitive skills and reduce anxiety and depressive related symptoms longer term (see here; and on media page).
  4. Mindfulness meditation practice and adaptive cognitive exercises can reduce anxiety sustainably in women with breast cancer (see here).  
  5. The combined effect of both good cognitive function and social support is vital to protect against depression in secondary breast cancer (see here).
  6.  Cognitive impairments induce fatigue, lack of confidence and self-esteem and contribute to deficits in workability in women with a primary diagnosis of breast cancer beyond the extended period of ‘return to work’. Women report mixed feelings about current self-management strategies which are used and believe they can be problematic with little benefit (see here).
  7. Adaptive cognitive training can improve cognitive functioning and improve workability in the workplace. Women reported that our intervention helped improve their self-confidence and general emotional well-being. These perceived improvements, in turn, decreased reliance on self-management methods for cognitive impairment and improved work efficiency, contributing to career development and progression (see here).
  8. Collateral damage from COVID19 delaying breast cancer treatment and diagnosis has increased psychological trauma in women with breast cancer (see here; and in The Telegraph)
  9. Women with breast cancer experiencing threats to job security due to COVID have an increased level of depression by 26% (see here)
  10. Delays in accessing breast cancer treatment in Iranian women has increased risk of clinical levels of emotional disorder with younger women at greater risk (see here)  

Our research team:

Professor Nazanin Derakshan (Head of the team) specialises in neurocognitive markers of anxiety and depressive vulnerability and develops neurocognitive interventions that promote cognitive efficiency, psychological flexibility and resilience.

Professor Beth Grunfeld specialises in psycho-social oncology and the psychosocial outcomes following diagnosis and treatment (mainly among patients with benign and non-benign lesions) and on the development of interventions to support patients.

Professor Jason Moser is a clinical neuroscientist and specialises in the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying our ability to regulate cognition, emotion and behaviour, and their clinical significance in terms of their roles in the development, maintenance, and treatment of anxiety and depression.

Dr Jessica Swainston was a PhD student funded by the ESRC. She investigated the neurocognitive markers of cognitive function and emotional vulnerability in breast cancer. Her work examined the efficacy of neurocognitive interventions in reducing emotional vulnerability in breast cancer, independently and in combination with other more traditional methods of psychotherapy such as expressive writing and mindfulness meditation.

Bethany Chapman is a PhD student funded by the ESRC. She investigates the efficacy of neurocognitive interventions helping women with breast cancer improve their sustainability and workability in the work place. Her recent work has elucidated the collateral damage of the COVID19 outbreak on the emotional and occupational health of UK women with breast cancer.

Anna Dobretsova (past MSc student) Examining cognitive health and the role of social support in deperssive vulnerability in women with a secondary diagnosis of breast cancer.

Samantha Shulman (past MSc student) Examining the efficacy of neurocognitive interventions on improving everyday memory and cognitive function in women with breast cancer.

Karina Dolgilevica (2021 – ) is a PhD student funded by the ESRC. She is studying the Effects of Heart Rate Variability/Vagal Tone Increase Biofeedback Training on Long-term Improvement in Emotional and Cognitive Functioning in Women with A Breast Cancer Diagnosis.