Systematic review of cognitive deficits in adult mitochondrial disease

Eur J Neurol. 2020 Jan;27(1):3-17. doi: 10.1111/ene.14068. Epub 2019 Oct 22.


The profile and trajectory of cognitive impairment in mitochondrial disease are poorly defined. This systematic review sought to evaluate the current literature on cognition in mitochondrial disease, and to determine future research directions. A systematic review was conducted, employing PubMed, Medline, Psycinfo, Embase and Web of Science, and 360-degree citation methods. English language papers on adult patients were included. The literature search yielded 2421 articles, of which 167 met inclusion criteria. Case reports and reviews of medical reports of patients yielded broad diagnoses of dementia, cognitive impairment and cognitive decline. In contrast, systematic investigations of cognitive functioning using detailed cognitive batteries identified focal cognitive rather than global deficits. Results were variable, but included visuospatial functioning, memory, attention, processing speed and executive functions. Conclusions from studies have been hampered by small sample sizes, variation in genotype and the breadth and depth of assessments undertaken. Comprehensive cognitive research with concurrent functional neuroimaging and physical correlates of mitochondrial disease in larger samples of well-characterized patients may discern the aetiology and progression of cognitive deficits. These data provide insights into the pattern and trajectory of cognitive impairments, which are invaluable for clinical monitoring, health planning and clinical trial readiness.

Keywords: adult; cognition; impairment; memory; mitochondrial disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Disease Progression
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / complications*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / psychology