Exploring the Relationship Between Deficits in Social Cognition and Neurodegenerative Dementia: A Systematic Review

Front Aging Neurosci. 2022 Apr 27;14:778093. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.778093. eCollection 2022.


Background: Neurodegenerative diseases might affect social cognition in various ways depending on their components (theory of mind, emotional processing, attribution bias, and social perception) and the subtype of dementia they cause. This review aims to explore this difference in cognitive function among individuals with different aetiologies of dementia.

Methods: The following databases were explored: MEDLINE via PubMed, Cochrane Library, Lilacs, Web of Science, and PsycINFO. We selected studies examining social cognition in individuals with neurodegenerative diseases in which dementia was the primary symptom that was studied. The neurodegenerative diseases included Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The search yielded 2,803 articles.

Results: One hundred twenty-two articles were included in the present review. The summarised results indicate that people with neurodegenerative diseases indeed have deficits in social cognitive performance. Both in populations with Alzheimer's disease and in populations with frontotemporal dementia, we found that emotional processing was strongly affected. However, although theory of mind impairment could also be observed in the initial stages of frontotemporal dementia, in Alzheimer's disease it was only appreciated when performing highly complex task or in advanced stages of the disease.

Conclusions: Each type of dementia has a differential profile of social cognition deterioration. This review could provide a useful reference for clinicians to improve detection and diagnosis, which would undoubtedly guarantee better interventions.

Systematic review registration: https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42020152562, PROSPERO, identifier: CRD42020152562.

Keywords: attribution bias; dementia; emotional processing; neurodegenerative disease; social cognition; social perception; theory of mind.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review