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Interventions for subjective cognitive decline: systematic review and meta-analysis

20 Jul 2018


This review provides a broad overview of the effectiveness of interventions for subjective cognitive decline (SCD) in improving psychological well-being, metacognition and objective cognitive performance.


Databases including PubMed, Web of Science and Cochrane Systematic Reviews were searched up to August 2017 to identify randomised controlled trials evaluating interventions for SCD. Interventions were categorised as psychological, cognitive, lifestyle or pharmacological. Outcomes of interest included psychological well-being, metacognitive ability and objective cognitive performance. To assess the risk of bias, three authors independently rated study validity using criteria based on the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme. Random-effects meta-analyses were undertaken where three or more studies investigated similar interventions and reported comparable outcomes.


Twenty studies met inclusion criteria and 16 had sufficient data for inclusion in the meta-analyses. Of these, only seven were rated as being high quality. Group psychological interventions significantly improved psychological well-being (g=0.40, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.76; p=0.03) but the improvement they conferred on metacognitive ability was not statistically significant (g=0.26, 95% CI –0.22 to 0.73; p=0.28). Overall, cognitive training interventions led to a small, statistically significant improvement in objective cognitive performance (g=0.13, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.25; p=0.03). However, the pooled effect sizes of studies using active control groups (g=0.02, 95% CI –0.19 to 0.22; p=0.85) or reporting global cognitive measures (g=0.06, 95% CI –0.19 to 0.31; p=0.66) were non-significant.


There is a lack of high-quality research in this field. Group psychological interventions improve psychological well-being and may also improve metacognition. A large, high-quality study is indicated to investigate this further. There is no evidence to suggest that cognitive interventions improve global cognitive performance and the clinical utility of small improvements in specific cognitive domains is questionable. There is a lack of research considering lifestyle interventions and poor quality evidence for pharmacological interventions.

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Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open