[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 2 Issue 8, March 2012; and later in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 3 Issue 1, August 2012].
This BMJ article (and a Cochrane systematic review) explores the potential use of mental exercises and activities to maintain and improve cognitive function for patients attending memory clinics. Evidence is weak for individual psychological interventions to improve cognition in dementia. Many people with dementia are unable to take part in group therapy due to sensory impairments, unwilling to participate or unable to get to local groups.
A recent six-week study into the potential of online brain training to improve reasoning, memory, planning, visuospatial skills and attention found that specific improvements did not transfer to generalised untrained tasks. The authors of this article reviewed numerous systematic reviews of psychological interventions in dementia. They found that individual cognitive stimulation therapy (usually carer led) might be promising, but it is premature to recommend this treatment routinely in dementia care without for further confirmatory research. (For a slightly different view, refer to Economic Evaluation of Alternatives to Antipsychotic Drugs for Individuals Living with Dementia).
Woods, B. Aguirre, E. [and] Spector, AE. [et al] (2012). Cognitive stimulation to improve cognitive functioning in people with dementia. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online), February 15th 2012, Issue 2, No.CD005562. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).
Full Text Link (b) (Access requires an Athens password or journal subscription).
Orrell, M. Woods, B. [and] Spector, A. Should we use individual cognitive stimulation therapy to improve cognitive function in people with dementia? BMJ, February 15th 2012; 344, e633.
See also: Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (http://www.cstdementia.com/).