Publication Details

Coyle, H., Traynor, V. & Solowij, N. (2015). Computerized and virtual reality cognitive training for individuals at high risk of cognitive decline: systematic review of the literature. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23 (4), 335-359.


The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of cognitive training, specifically computerized cognitive training (CCT) and virtual reality cognitive training (VRCT), programs for individuals living with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia and therefore at high risk of cognitive decline. After searching a range of academic databases (CINHAL, PSYCinfo, and Web of Science), the studies evaluated (N = 16) were categorized as CCT (N = 10), VRCT (N = 3), and multimodal interventions (N = 3). Effect sizes were calculated, but a meta-analysis was not possible because of the large variability of study design and outcome measures adopted. The cognitive domains of attention, executive function, and memory (visual and verbal) showed the most consistent improvements. The positive effects on psychological outcomes (N = 6) were significant reductions on depressive symptoms (N = 3) and anxiety (N = 2) and improved perceived use of memory strategy (N = 1). Assessments of activities of daily living demonstrated no significant improvements (N = 8). Follow-up studies (N = 5) demonstrated long-term improvements in cognitive and psychological outcomes (N = 3), and the intervention groups showed a plateau effect of cognitive functioning compared with the cognitive decline experienced by control groups (N = 2). CCT and VRCT were moderately effective in long-term improvement of cognition for those at high risk of cognitive decline. Total intervention time did not mediate efficacy. Future research needs to improve study design by including larger samples, longitudinal designs, and a greater range of outcome measures, including functional and quality of life measures, to assess the wider effect of cognitive training on individuals at high risk of cognitive decline.



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