Chemotherapy in childhood can result in long-term neurophysiological side-effects, which could extend to visual processing, specifically the degree to which a person relies on vision to determine vertical and horizontal (visual dependency). We investigated whether adults treated with chemotherapy in childhood experience elevated visual dependency compared to controls and whether any difference is associated with the age at which subjects were treated. Visual dependency was measured in 23 subjects (mean age 25.3 years) treated in childhood with chemotherapy (CTS) for malignant, solid, non-CNS tumors. We also stratified CTS into two groups: those treated before 12 years of age and those treated from 12 years of age and older. Results were compared to 25 healthy, age-matched controls. The subjective visual horizontal (SVH) and vertical (SVV) orientations was recorded by having subjects position an illuminated rod to their perceived horizontal and vertical with and without a surrounding frame tilted clockwise and counter-clockwise 20 from vertical. There was no significant difference in rod accuracy between any CTS groups and controls without a frame. However, when assessing visual dependency using a frame, CTS in general (p = 0.006) and especially CTS treated before 12 years of age (p = 0.001) tilted the rod significantly further in the direction of the frame compared to controls. Our findings suggest that chemotherapy treatment before 12 years of age is associated with elevated visual dependency compared to controls, implying a visual bias during spatial activities. Clinicians should be aware of symptoms such as visual vertigo in adults treated with chemotherapy in childhood.
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