Cognitive rehabilitation for attention deficits following stroke

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 May 31;2013(5):CD002842. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002842.pub2.


Background: Many survivors of stroke complain about attentional impairments, such as diminished concentration and mental slowness. However, the effectiveness of cognitive rehabilitation for improving these impairments is uncertain.

Objectives: To determine whether (1) people receiving attentional treatment show better outcomes in their attentional functions than those given no treatment or treatment as usual, and (2) people receiving attentional treatment techniques have a better functional recovery, in terms of independence in activities of daily living, mood and quality of life, than those given no treatment or treatment as usual.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (October 2012), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library October 2012), MEDLINE (1948 to October 2012), EMBASE (1947 to October 2012), CINAHL (1981 to October 2012), PsycINFO (1806 to October 2012), PsycBITE and REHABDATA (searched October 2012) and ongoing trials registers. We screened reference lists and tracked citations using Scopus.

Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of cognitive rehabilitation for impairments of attention for people with stroke. The primary outcome was measures of global attentional functions, and secondary outcomes were measures of attention domains, functional abilities, mood and quality of life.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently selected trials, extracted data and assessed trial quality.

Main results: We included six RCTs with 223 participants. All six RCTs compared cognitive rehabilitation with a usual care control. Meta-analyses demonstrated no statistically significant effect of cognitive rehabilitation for persisting effects on global measures of attention (two studies, 99 participants; standardised mean difference (SMD) 0.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.23 to 0.56; P value = 0.41), standardised attention assessments (two studies, 99 participants; P value ≥ 0.08) or functional outcomes (two studies, 99 participants; P value ≥ 0.15). In contrast, a statistically significant effect was found in favour of cognitive rehabilitation when compared with control for immediate effects on measures of divided attention (four studies, 165 participants; SMD 0.67, 95% CI 0.35 to 0.98; P value < 0.0001) but no significant effects on global attention (two studies, 53 participants; P value = 0.06), other attentional domains (six studies, 223 participants; P value ≥ 0.16) or functional outcomes (three studies, 109 participants; P value ≥ 0.21).Thus there was limited evidence that cognitive rehabilitation may improve some aspects of attention in the short term, but there was insufficient evidence to support or refute the persisting effects of cognitive rehabilitation on attention, or on functional outcomes in either the short or long term.

Authors' conclusions: The effectiveness of cognitive rehabilitation remains unconfirmed. The results suggest there may be a short-term effect on attentional abilities, but future studies need to assess the persisting effects and measure attentional skills in daily life. Trials also need to have higher methodological quality and better reporting.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*