Memory & Aging Program - Memory Disorders Clinic


The Memory Disorders Clinic is a multidisciplinary clinic founded in 1984 as part of the federally funded Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. It provides services to individuals with memory problems and their families.

Referral to the Memory Disorders Clinic is generally made by a medical professional, usually the family doctor. The clinic provides evaluations, offering advice to families and referring physicians. The clinic will work with the patient until an evaluation is provided, at which point the patient will usually return to seeing his or her referring doctor.


The clinic offers initial diagnostic evaluations for adults with suspected neurologic diseases affecting memory, language, visuospatial function or other aspects of cognition. The clinic offers particular expertise in the evaluation and care of patients with late-life cognitive disorders such as vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Physicians have special expertise in the diagnostic evaluation of puzzling cognitive disorders occurring in any adult.

The evaluation process is extensive, and it takes time and effort. This can be frustrating for patients and families. However, the comprehensive evaluation is worthwhile because many factors are taken into account in reaching the diagnosis, and recommendations are based on a careful assessment.

Each patient undergoes objective neuropsychological assessment, a social service evaluation, review of previous medical records and radiologic studies, followed by a complete neurologic evaluation. This information is evaluated thoroughly at a formal diagnostic review conference.

The clinic offers promising new research protocols to those patients with dementias that are currently thought untreatable.

Every effort is made to schedule all procedures for the same day. The clinic scheduler will call you a few days before the visit to provide precise instructions for your visit.

Your First Visit

The clinic will perform tests to determine whether you have a memory problem, how severe it is and if there are serious medical problems, such as brain tumors or low thyroid function. The clinic performs three types of testing: laboratory blood work, brain scan and memory testing.

Testing length depends on the severity of the problems. If the memory problem is severe, testing may take only 30 minutes. But if memory loss is mild, testing takes much longer (up to three or four hours) because subtle memory loss is harder to detect.

Blood work: Blood work requires blood to be drawn from a vein in the arm. This process only takes a few minutes. Results of this test may take up to three weeks to return.

Brain Scan 

A brain scan takes 30-45 minutes. During scanning, the patient lies still on a table. The scan provides the doctor with a detailed picture of the current state of the brain. Let us know if a scan of the brain (CT or MRI) has been done in the last two years. Because we may view and interpret scans of the brain differently than the person who originally looked at the scan, we need actual films, not just a written report. We will compare any previous scans with the most recent scan.

Memory Testing

During the memory test, the patient will talk to a certified test administrator who will ask many questions to determine not only memory capability, but also the ability to pay close attention and to think clearly. The administrator is only trained to administer the tests and cannot interpret the test or answer questions about the results. A neuropsychologist will interpret the test results and write them up in a formal report.

Neurological Examination

An appointment is scheduled only after evaluations and tests have been completed. The doctor at the Memory Disorders Clinic verifies the patient's history, examines the patient and then reviews the results of this examination, prior notes and all other information gathered during the evaluation process.

In most cases, this information allows the doctor to give an immediate diagnosis, answer questions the patient may have, discuss treatment options and give advice on what needs to be done in the future.


  • At least one family member or caregiver must come to each visit with the patient.
  • Bring a list of all medicines the patient currently uses to the visit with the physician.
  • After the appointment, the doctor will complete a written note to the referring doctor detailing the diagnosis, test results and recommendations.
  • The doctor will also send the results of the formal cognitive examination to the referring physician.

About Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease is one of the most common forms of dementia, comprising 50-75% of all cases. Dementia is a general term for impairment, or loss of intellectual capacity or memory, due to the loss/damage to neurons in the brain. The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer's dementia is increasing age. Patients rarely show symptoms before the age of 50, but risk for the disease quickly doubles every 5 years, starting from a level of 1% for the 60 to 64-year-old population and reaching 40% or more for the 85 to 89-year-old cohort.

These symptoms are thought to be due to the progressive loss of neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain, usually involving the frontal lobe. This degeneration usually results in progressive loss of mental function, which worsens over time. Dementia, in the case of Alzheimer's Disease, can advance to be serious enough to interfere with daily life.

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