BACKGROUND: Because of the enormous social and economic burden of disease, the prevention of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's-type dementia has become a major global public health priority. Studies show that cognitively stimulating activities during middle adulthood might have a protective effect on the brain by boosting the cognitive reserve. The aim of this review is to identify evidence investigating the effects of continuing education for the prevention of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's-type dementia in late life.
METHODS: Our approach employs a two-stage design: First, we will conduct a systematic review to assess the preventive effects of continuing education on mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's-type dementia. Second, because we expect to find few studies, we will perform a review of systematic reviews on leisure activities that mimic formal continuing education to determine their effects on the prevention of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's-type dementia. We will search electronic databases (e.g., MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, CENTRAL, CINAHL, and Scopus) for published studies and gray literature databases (e.g., trial registries) for unpublished studies. Two authors will independently screen abstracts and full-texts using pre-defined eligibility criteria, select studies, extract data, and assess the quality of included studies or reviews. Outcomes of interest include the incidence of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's-type dementia, quality of life, functional capacity, and psychological wellbeing. Intermediate outcomes are cognitive (test) performance, cognitive functioning, and social inclusion. The review team is a multidisciplinary group consisting of methodological experts and dementia, geriatrics, and continuing education researchers.
DISCUSSION: We anticipate that our review will highlight serious gaps in the current evidence. Results will build the basis for further research regarding the relation of continuing education and cognitive decline and dementia.
SYSTEMATIC REVIEW REGISTRATION: PROSPERO CRD42017063944.