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World J Clin Cases. Nov 16, 2013; 1(8): 233-241
Published online Nov 16, 2013. doi: 10.12998/wjcc.v1.i8.233
Non-pharmacological cognitive intervention for aging and dementia: Current perspectives
Jorge Alves, Rosana Magalhães, Álvaro Machado, Óscar F Gonçalves, Adriana Sampaio, Agavni Petrosyan
Jorge Alves, Rosana Magalhães, Óscar F Gonçalves, Adriana Sampaio, Agavni Petrosyan, Neuropsychophysiology Lab, CIPsi, School of Psychology, University of Minho, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
Álvaro Machado, Department of Neurology, Hospital de Braga, 4710-243 Braga, Portugal
Óscar F Gonçalves, Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, United States
Agavni Petrosyan, Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, CA 92717, United States
Author contributions: Alves J conceptualized the present work, performed article search and collection; Alves J and Magalhães R drafted the initial version of the manuscript; Machado Á, Gonçalves ÓF, Sampaio A and Petrosyan A contributed to further revisions of the paper; all authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript before submission.
Supported by The Foundation for Science and Technology, FCT (SFRH/BD/64457/2009 and SFRH/BD/65213/2009, co-funded by FSE/POPH) and by project PIC/IC/83290/2007, which is supported by FEDER (POFC - COMPETE) and FCT
Correspondence to: Jorge Alves, MSc, Neuropsychophysiology Lab, CIPsi, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal.
Telephone: +351-253-601398 Fax: +351-253-604224
Received: June 28, 2013
Revised: September 30, 2013
Accepted: October 17, 2013
Published online: November 16, 2013

In recent years, cognitive difficulties associated with normal aging and dementia have been receiving increased attention from both public and scientific communities. With an increase in overall lifespan, promoting healthy cognition has become a priority and a necessity for minimizing and preventing individual and societal burdens associated with cognitive dysfunctions in the elderly. The general awareness concerning the efficacy of preventive (e.g., lifestyles) and palliative treatment strategies of cognitive impairments, related to either healthy or unhealthy trajectories in cognitive aging, is continuously rising. There are several therapeutic strategies which can be broadly classified as either pharmacological or non-pharmacological/psychosocial. In face of the modest evidence for success of pharmacological treatments, especially for dementia related impairments, psychosocial interventions are progressively considered as a complementary treatment. Despite the relative spread of psychosocial interventions in clinical settings, research in this area is rather scarce with evidence for success of these therapies remaining controversial. In this work we provide an evidence based perspective on cognitive intervention(s) for healthy aging, pre-dementia (mild cognitive impairment), and dementia populations. Current evidence and future directions for improving cognitive functions in the elderly are discussed as well.

Keywords: Dementia, Aging, Cognitive intervention, Cognition, Non-pharmacological therapies

Core tip: Cognitive intervention (CI) may provide a viable option for improving cognition in healthy aging, as well as in mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Although current evidence regarding the efficacy of CI is modest, therapeutic strategies for mitigating the effects of aging on cognitive decline and early stage dementia, should be integrated into mainstream clinical practice.