UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


International Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) Centre

Welcome to the International CST Centre at University College London

CST is an evidence-based therapy for people with dementia. It is the only non-medical therapy endorsed by UK government guidelines for the cognitive symptoms of dementia. Group CST treatment involves 14 or more sessions of themed activities, which typically run twice weekly. The aims of sessions are to actively stimulate and engage people with dementia, whilst providing an optimal learning environment and the social benefits of a group. It is widely used across the UK - see our other website, www.cstdementia.com for more details.

Individual CST (iCST) has recently been developed and evaluated in the UK. For more information about iCST, please see the UCL iCST website or, to book training, see the iCST Dementia Training and Consultancy website.

CST is now also being used globally, with work ongoing in at least 34 countries. The International CST Centre was set up to co-ordinate this work and it is directed by Prof Aimee Spector. Other aims of the centre are to:

  • Share information and encourage collaboration between professionals and consumers internationally
  • Bring people together for annual CST conferences/training days.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term often used to describe a range of neurodegenerative diseases or conditions. They are often characterised by symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty planning or making decisions and trouble with language or thinking. It is estimated that there are approximately 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. Dementia usually affects people over the age of 65 but it can also affect younger people too. Of the 850,000 people living with dementia, 42,000 people are under the age of 65. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for approximately two thirds of cases. Vascular dementia is the second most common, accounting for 20 - 30% of cases. Rarer dementias such as dementia with Lewy Bodies and Frontotemporal dementia account for between 10 - 25% of cases. 

What causes dementia?

In Alzheimer's disease, abnormal amyloid proteins clump together to form plaques in parts of the brain. These 'amyloid plaques' collect between neurons and disrupt cell function. Another protein called tau also accumulates in the brain, leading to something called 'neurofibrillary tangles'. These tangles block communication between neurons. In vascular dementia, oxygen supply to parts of the brain becomes reduced because of narrowing blood vessels. As oxygen does not get to parts of the brain well enough, the cells there get damaged or die. Some people have mixed dementia and this is usually a combination of Alzheimer's Disease and vascular dementia. Lewy body dementia is caused by tiny deposits of a protein forming in the brain. These very small structures are called 'Lewy bodies'. Like the plaques and tangles in Alzheimer's disease, they disrupt communication between cells.  

What are the treatment options for dementia?

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for dementia. However, some medications are available to help with symptoms. These medications are called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and can be prescribed by a General Practitioner (GP) in the UK. In other countries, these medications may not be available and you should discuss your options with your primary physician. It is important to recognise that medication is not appropriate for everyone and there are alternative therapies that people can access. One of these is Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) but there are many more including Reality Orientation Therapy and Reminiscence Therapy. Of the alternative therapies available, It is generally accepted that CST has the best evidence base for improving some of the cognitive symptoms of dementia and for also improving quality of life. 

What is Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST)?

CST is a group therapy for people with mild to moderate dementia, developed in the UK. It involves 14 or more sessions of themed activities, which typically run twice weekly. Longer-term, or 'maintenance CST', is outlined in a published treatment manual. Sessions aim to actively stimulate and engage people with dementia, whilst providing an optimal learning environment and the social benefits of a group. The effects of CST appear to be of a comparable size to those reported with the currently available anti-dementia drugs. CST treatment can be administered by anyone working with people with dementia, such as care workers, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists or nurses. CST groups can take place in settings including residential homes, hospitals or day centres. Practitioners can learn to provide CST treatment for people with dementia by following the CST manual or attending CST training. Training is organised for UK residents through their organisation and International CST Trainers can be found on this website. We are currently expanding the International CST Centre so more people can be trained. 

CST session

Where can I access Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST)?

CST is offered by some National Health Services (NHS) in the UK. If you have been diagnosed with dementia and are interested in attending a session, you should contact your local NHS Memory Service, who will be able to advise you further. If you are outside the UK, please visit the CST by country page on this website and contact the CST representative from your country. If your country is not listed, it may be that CST is not currently available in your country. However, the work of the International CST Centre is expanding and you should check back regularly. 

Where can I get more information on dementia?

The Alzheimer's Society has excellent and accessible information for people with dementia and caregivers. They also have a national dementia helpline for people with dementia in the UK (0300 222 1122). Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) also regularly publish free online reports about dementia and treatments from around the world.