Cognitive functioning and mental health in mitochondrial disease: A systematic scoping review

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021 Jun;125:57-77. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.02.004. Epub 2021 Feb 11.


Mitochondrial diseases (MDs) are rare, heterogeneous, hereditary and progressive in nature. In addition to the serious somatic symptoms, patients with MD also experience problems regarding their cognitive functioning and mental health. We provide an overview of all published studies reporting on any aspect of cognitive functioning and/or mental health in patients with MD and their relatives. A total of 58 research articles and 45 case studies were included and critically reviewed. Cognitive impairments in multiple domains were reported. Mental disorders were frequently reported, especially depression and anxiety. Furthermore, most studies showed impairments in self-reported psychological functioning and high prevalence of mental health problems in (matrilineal) relatives. The included studies showed heterogeneity regarding patient samples, measurement instruments and reference groups, making comparisons cautious. Results highlight a high prevalence of cognitive impairments and mental disorders in patients with MD. Recommendations for further research as well as tailored patientcare with standardized follow-up are provided. Key gaps in the literature are identified, of which studies on natural history are of highest importance.

Keywords: Cognitive functioning; Fatigue; Mental health; Mitochondrial disease; Psychiatry; Psychology; Scoping review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / complications
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / genetics
  • Quality of Life