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Is There Evidence for Cognitive Intervention in Alzheimer Disease? A Systematic Review of Efficacy, Feasibility, and Cost-Effectiveness

Alves, Jorge MSc*; Magalhães, Rosana MSc*; Thomas, Roger E. MD, PhD; Gonçalves, Óscar F. PhD*; Petrosyan, Agavni PhD*; Sampaio, Adriana PhD*

Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders: July-September 2013 - Volume 27 - Issue 3 - p 195–203
doi: 10.1097/WAD.0b013e31827bda55
Review Article

Several studies have shown that cognitive intervention may be beneficial for people with Alzheimer disease (AD), but literature reviews conducted so far, have yielded mixed and inconclusive results. In this work, through an extensive bibliographic search, we aim: (1) to analyze the efficacy of cognitive intervention in patients diagnosed with AD; (2) to provide an estimate of the feasibility of cognitive intervention; and (3) to review available cost-effectiveness data of this approach. Four randomized controlled trials of cognitive intervention, for patients diagnosed with AD that incorporated cognitive intervention and mock intervention control conditions, were included in the analysis. Only the domain of global cognitive functioning, as measured by Mini-Mental State Examination, showed significant intervention effects. No effects were observed in the remaining domains. Concerning feasibility, high rates of completion and adherence were found. A single randomized controlled trial, with unspecified dementia, suggested cognitive intervention to be cost-effective. Given the currently available dearth of well-controlled and focused trials in AD, these results should be carefully interpreted and remain to be confirmed in the future. There is a clear need for more high-quality research.

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*Neuropsychophysiology Laboratory, CIPsi, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal

Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care Research Office, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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J.A. and R.M. are supported by doctoral Grants from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, FCT) (SFRH/BD/64457/2009 and SFRH/BD/65213/2009, co-funded by FSE/POPH). A.S. is funded by the project PIC/IC/83290/2007, supported by FEDER (POFC–COMPETE) and FCT, to develop and assess the effectiveness of a cognitive stimulation tool for Portuguese clinicians.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest. J.A.: planned the study. J.A. and R.M.: contributed to the literature search, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, and writing. R.T.: contributed to literature search, data analysis, and writing. O.G., A.P., and A.S.: contributed to data interpretation and writing.

Reprints: Jorge Alves, MSc, Laboratório de Neuropsicofisiologia, Escola de Psicologia, Universidade do Minho-Campus de Gualtar, Braga 4710-057, Portugal (e-mail:

Received March 29, 2012

Accepted August 23, 2012

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.