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Memory Disorders


Most people have occasional memory lapses. Often the problem is a normal consequence of stress or aging. However, when memory lapses begin to interfere with everyday function, such as job performance or other independent functions, assistance from health professionals who specialize in the problems of memory loss may be needed.

Watch Richard O'Brien, MD, PhD, discusses how he helps patients and caregivers affected by Alzheimer's disease and other memory disorders.

Such specialized assistance is available at the Memory Disorders Clinic (MDC) of Duke University Health Systems. The clinic is located within the Duke Health Center at Morreene Road in Durham, NC.

Patient Care

Our neurologists at Duke’s memory disorders clinic specialize in new diagnostic techniques that detect Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions even before symptoms begin. We also diagnose and treat a wide range of memory problems including mild cognitive impairment, post-traumatic memory loss, amnesia, dementia, and normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). We help caregivers access the care their loved ones need.

We work closely with you, the caregiver, to discuss your loved one’s diagnosis, care and treatment. We offer family support programs and access to a variety of specialists including social workers and geropsychologists, who provide psychological services to older adults. We are here to help you care for your loved one.

Read more about our patient services.

Memory Disorders Clinic (MDC)

The MDC, established in 1986, treats a wide range of memory problems arising from diverse medical causes including neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's disease, vascular problems, and other neurological disorders). The MDC provides comprehensive evaluations and outpatient care.

Its specialized clinical team consists of neurologists, neuropsychologists, a geriatric psychiatrist, a nurse practitioner, social worker, and clinical coordinators who work with the patient and family to provide assistance for their medical, behavioral, and caregiver support needs.

The MDC evaluates more than 500 new patients yearly. Patients, family members, friends, or physicians can make clinic referrals. The MDC staff works closely with the patient's personal physician to determine the cause of the memory problem and appropriate treatment. After a thorough diagnostic evaluation, the MDC staff meets with family members to discuss the patient's diagnosis, care, and treatment.

Education, intervention, counseling, and access to support groups are available to patients and family members. The MDC also offers the opportunity for participation in research studies including clinical drug trials, longitudinal studies, imaging, and an autopsy program.

Clinical research studies are conducted under research protocols approved and supervised by the Duke University Institution Review Board for Clinical Investigations.

Basic Science Research

Our research faculty in the division of Translational Brain Sciences conduct basic science investigations in Alzheimer's disease and related disorders.

These investigations use genetic, biochemical, and cellular approaches to understand the pathogenesis of these disorders. The now well-known apolipoproteinE (ApoE) gene associated with Alzheimer's disease was discovered in our neuroscience laboratories and remains a major focus of ongoing research investigations.

Human brain tissue is important to many of these investigations. The Kathleen Price Bryan Brain Bank provides this valuable tissue and is recognized as an international research resource.

Clinical Neuropsychology Service (CNS)

The Duke Clinical Neuropsychology Service (CNS) provides comprehensive cognitive assessments to adult patients (ages 16 and older), with known or suspected central nervous system injury or illness. Comprehensive cognitive testing assists in differential diagnosis, characterization of cognitive and functional status, longitudinal tracking, and treatment planning in patients with cognitive loss. Such concerns may be evident in memory disorders (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, cerebrovascular conditions), movement disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, Lewy Body disease, multiple sclerosis), neurological events (e.g., stroke, ruptured aneurysm), atypical neurological conditions (e.g., viral or metabolic encephalopathy), sustained injury (e.g., traumatic brain injury, anoxic injury), and psychiatric conditions (e.g., depression, bipolar disease).

Clinical services include comprehensive assessment and therapeutic intervention targeted at coping and compensating for cognitive symptoms in neurological patients. The CNS offers nationally recognized clinical training programs for pre-doctoral interns and post-doctoral fellows. The faculty also participate in ongoing scholarly projects, with clinical research projects investigating the natural course of neurological illnesses, prediction of outcomes and trajectories, functional impact of illness, and effectiveness of treatment.


Elective rotations in the MDC are available to Duke residents and medical students. In addition, fellowship opportunities involving clinical behavioral neurology and basic science are available through the Bryan ADRC or the Department of Neurology.


Our division of Memory Disorders is part of the Duke and the University of North Carolina Alzheimer’s Disease Research Collaborative (Duke/UNC ADRC), which brings together leading researchers in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias across two major research institutions.

Together, the Duke/UNC ADRC aims to catalyze and support research, innovations in clinical care and academic work force development (with North Carolina Central University, East Carolina University and UNC Pembroke as partner institutions) in this field. Its ultimate purpose is to reduce the burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias regionally and nationally. The outstanding scientific environment at both institutions enables novel research to identify effective methods of prevention and/or early intervention, and to reduce racial and urban/rural disparities associated with dementia. Read more.


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