Mobile-Based Interventions Improve Cognitive Function in Older Adults

Mobile cognitive interventions have potential to slow deteriorating cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults.

The working memory, short-term memory, reasoning, and executive function of older adults is significantly improved with mobile-based cognitive interventions, according to review and meta-analysis findings published Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics.

Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of articles in the PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature databases published up to August 2021. They searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated the effects of mobile-based cognitive interventions on the cognitive function of older adults with normal cognitive function in a community setting.

Normal cognitive function was defined as scoring 24 or higher on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and 17 or greater on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). However, the researchers of this analysis included studies in the current analysis that included participants without prior cognitive function evaluation if they deemed those participants to have normal cognitive function.

A total of 6 RCTs in the meta-analysis and comparison groups did not receive cognitive interventions using a mobile app or a website; they received either placebo, alternative intervention, or no treatment. Outcomes were represented by measured values of working memory, short-term memory, reasoning, executive function, and processing speed.

The mobile-based cognitive interventions had significantly affirmative effect on the older adults’ executive function, reasoning, short-term memory, and working memory.

Among the included RCTs, 2 were conducted in the United States and 1 each in Australia, Columbia, Korea, and the United Kingdom. These RCTs included 2 which only targeted individuals older than age 65 years, while the other 4 RCTs included individuals aged between 50 and 59 years. While 5 of the RCTs measured participant cognitive function with either the Wechsler Memory Scale III or the MMSE, 1 study did not use any measurements, selecting participants based on computer availability and internet access.

Researchers found mobile-based cognitive interventions had a significant effect on working memory (standardized mean difference [SMD]=0.70; 95% CI, 0.02-1.37; P =.040; I2=81%), short-term memory (SMD=0.22; 95% CI, 0.13-0.32; P <.001; I2=0%), reasoning (SMD=0.27; 95% CI, 0.11-0.42; P <.001; I2=25%), and executive function (SMD=0.62; 95% CI, 0.09-1.16; P =.020; I2=0%). They found no significant publication bias using a funnel plot and Egger regression test.

Four of the studies addressed the effect of the mobile-based cognitive interventions on processing speed before and after interventions, and no statistically significant difference was found.

The review was limited by the inclusion of only 6 studies in the meta-analysis, wherein only 1 study evaluated effects immediately and at a future time to determine changes in cognitive function.

Review authors conclude, “The mobile-based cognitive interventions had significantly affirmative effect on the older adults’ executive function, reasoning, short-term memory, and working memory.” They suggest the development of “a cognitive function improvement program through various mobile apps or the web that the older adults can use easily; additionally, it can be employed to enhance the cognitive function of the elderly who have difficulty in mobility or those living in areas with insufficient accessibility.”


Ha JY, Park HJ. Effects of mobile-based cognitive interventions for the cognitive function in the community-dwelling older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. Published online October 2, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.archger.2022.104829