Dementia is a collective name for different degenerative brain syndromes which, according to Alzheimer's Disease International, affects approximately 35.6 million people worldwide. The latest NICE guideline for dementia highlights the value of diverse treatment options for the different stages and symptoms of dementia including non-pharmacological treatments. Relevant literature also argues for the value of interventions that acknowledge the complexity of the condition and address the person as a whole, including their physical, emotional, social and cognitive processes. At the same time, there is growing literature that highlights the capacity of the arts and embodied practices to address this complexity. Dance movement therapy is an embodied psychological intervention that can address complexity and thus, may be useful for people with dementia, but its effectiveness remains unclear.
To assess the effects of dance movement therapy on behavioural, social, cognitive and emotional symptoms of people with dementia in comparison to no treatment, standard care or any other treatment. Also, to compare different forms of dance movement therapy (e.g. Laban-based dance movement therapy, Chacian dance movement therapy or Authentic Movement).
Searches took place up to March 2016 through ALOIS, Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement's Specialized Register, which covers CENTRAL, a number of major healthcare databases and trial registers, and grey literature sources. We checked bibliographies of relevant studies and reviews, and contacted professional associations, educational programmes and experts from around the world.
We considered randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in any language, including cross-over design and cluster-RCTs for inclusion. Studies considered had to include people with dementia, in any age group and in any setting, with interventions delivered by a dance movement therapy practitioner who (i) had received formal training (ii) was a dance movement therapist in training or (iii) was otherwise recognised as a dance movement therapist in the country in which the study was conducted.
The two review authors independently reviewed studies on an abstract/title level and again after reading the full paper, and we independently evaluated methodological quality.
Of the 102 studies identified through electronic searches and personal communication, after de-duplication we screened 80 at title/abstract level. We then reviewed 19 full papers, none of which met the inclusion criteria. Although three studies mentioned dance movement therapy as their intervention, they were excluded because they were not delivered by a qualified dance movement therapy practitioner. As a result, no studies were included in this review.
Trials of high methodological quality, large sample sizes and clarity in the way the intervention is put together and delivered are needed to assess whether dance movement therapy is an effective intervention for dementia.