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A randomized controlled trial of the effects of multi-sensory stimulation (MSS) for people with dementia

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Objectives: To investigate short-term effects of Multi-Sensory Stimulation (MSS) on behaviour, mood and cognition of older adults with dementia, the generalization of effects to day hospital and home environments and the endurance of any effects over time. Design: A randomized controlled trial comparing MSS with a credible control of one-to-one activities.Methods: Fifty patients with diagnoses of moderate to severe dementia were randomized to either MSS or Activity groups. Patients participated in eight 30-minute sessions over a 4-week period. Ratings of behaviour and mood were taken before, during and after sessions to investigate immediate effects. Pre, mid, post-trial, and follow-up assessments were taken to investigate any generalization of effects on cognition, behaviour at the day hospital and behaviour and mood at home and endurance of effects once sessions had ceased. Results: Immediately after MSS and Activity sessions patients talked more spontaneously, related better to others, did more from their own initiative, were less bored/inactive, and were more happy, active or alert. Both groups were more attentive to their environment than before, with a significantly greater improvement from the MSS group. At the day hospital, patients in the Activity group improved on their 'speech skills' (amount of speech; initiation of speech), whereas the MSS group remained unchanged during the trial. The MSS group showed a significant improvement in mood and behaviour at home compared to the Activity group whose behaviour deteriorated. No longer-term benefits were shown; indeed, behaviour declined sharply during the month follow-up period.


Baker, R., Bell, S., Baker, E., Gibson, S., Holloway, J., Pearce, R., Dowling, Z., Thomas, P., Assey, J., & Wareing, L. A. (2001). A randomized controlled trial of the effects of multi-sensory stimulation (MSS) for people with dementia. The British journal of clinical psychology, 40(1), 81–96.





Conent Area

Roger Baker

EWB-Related Construct

(3) Positive Affect

Study Design

Species or Study Population

(5) RCT

Sex (%Female)


Age (Mean, SD)


Younger Controls?


Longitudinal Data?


Sample Size



multi-sensory stimulation (MSS)

Ethnicity (%white)

not stated (UK)

Inclusion Criteria

1. Living at home with a primary carer.
2. Referral to the Elderly Mental Health Service of Dorset HealthCare NHS Trust by their general practitioner.
3. Consultant psychiatrist’s diagnosis of either Alzheimer’s disease, vascular or mixed dementia as recorded in their medical notes and corroborated by the research assistant using items from the CAMDEX diagnostic tool (Rothet al., 1986).
4. Attendance at one of three-day centres on two or more days a week.

Exclusion Criteria

(a) additional psychiatric diagnoses;
(b) had more than one MSS session within the previous 3 month

EWB Measures

Behaviour and Mood Disturbance Scale (BMDScale: Greene, Smith, Gardiner, & Timbury, 1982).

Non-EWB Behavioral

Clifton Assessment Procedures for the Elderly
Mini-Mental State Examination
Cognitive Assessment Scale
Behaviour Rating Scale

Physiological Measures


Brain IMaging Modality

Brain IMaging Paradigm


Brain Region/Circuit


Biological Measures


Other Neural Measures

Data Availability?


Data Avalability Details


Diagnostic Measures

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