Non-Pharmacologic Interventions for Older Adults with Subjective Cognitive Decline: Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, and Preliminary Recommendations

Neuropsychol Rev. 2017 Sep;27(3):245-257. doi: 10.1007/s11065-017-9342-8. Epub 2017 Mar 7.


In subjective cognitive decline (SCD), older adults present with concerns about self-perceived cognitive decline but are found to have clinically normal function. However, a significant proportion of those adults are subsequently found to develop mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's dementia or other neurocognitive disorder. In other cases, SCD may be associated with mood, personality, and physical health concerns. Regardless of etiology, adults with SCD may benefit from interventions that could enhance current function or slow incipient cognitive decline. The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis, conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines, is to examine the benefits of non-pharmacologic intervention (NPI) in persons with SCD. Inclusion criteria were studies of adults aged 55 + with SCD defined using published criteria, receiving NPI or any control condition, with cognitive, behavioural, or psychological outcomes in controlled trails. Published empirical studies were obtained through a standardized search of CINAHL Complete, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE with Full Text, PsycINFO, and PsycARTICLES, supplemented by a manual retrieval of relevant articles. Study quality and bias was determined using PEDro. Nine studies were included in the review and meta-analysis. A wide range of study quality was observed. Overall, a small effect size was found on cognitive outcomes, greater for cognitive versus other intervention types. The available evidence suggests that NPI may benefit current cognitive function in persons with SCD. Recommendations are provided to improve future trials of NPI in SCD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Cognitive interventions; Complementary therapies; Mild cognitive impairment; Treatment outcome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Humans

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