Sensory stimulation programs in dementia: a systematic review of methods and effectiveness

Expert Rev Neurother. 2020 Dec;20(12):1229-1247. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2020.1825942. Epub 2020 Nov 18.


Introduction: Dementia is characterized by the presence of cognitive decline and can lead to sensory-perceptual alterations, compromising the functionality in activities of daily living. The main objective of this work is to review the characteristics of sensory stimulation programs in dementia and its effectiveness.

Areas covered: Studies were identified through a literature search, following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) and the Cochrane Collaboration Guidelines. Twenty studies were included in this review. The studies used multisensory stimulation at different stages of dementia. The results show a lack of consensus regarding frequency, duration, and number of sessions, as well as the duration of the interventions and assessment instruments used to evaluate the results. Multisensory stimulation, particularly Snoezelen, was the most widely used approach. Vision, hearing, touch, and smell were the most frequently stimulated senses. Most studies comprised pre- and post-intervention assessment, but few studies performed follow-up assessment. The interventions that revealed positive results in dementia were Snoezelen, multisensory environment other than Snoezelen, and Multi-sensory Behavior Therapy.

Expert opinion: This review weakly supports sensory stimulation in dementia, providing useful information for rehabilitation and future investigations.

Keywords: Snoezelen; PRISMA; Sensory stimulation; dementia; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dementia / rehabilitation*
  • Environment, Controlled*
  • Humans
  • Neurological Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Perception*
  • Physical Stimulation / methods*
  • Sensation*