Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder causing deficits in memory and thinking abilities to such an extent that it impairs a person's ability to carry out daily activities. A related problem, mild cognitive impairment, results in significant memory or thinking problems (more than in normal people the same age) but does not impair the individual from carrying out daily activities. Many, but not all, people with mild cognitive impairment will develop Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control memory, visual skills and language. People with Alzheimer's disease may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of common objects. In Alzheimer's disease, over time, symptoms get worse. People may repeat questions frequently, misplace items or have trouble finding words, reading or writing. They may eventually even forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. During the course of illness, they may become anxious, aggressive or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total supervision and care. This can cause great stress for family members who must care for them.

Alzheimer's disease usually begins after age 60. The risk increases as you get older. Your risk is also higher if a family member has had the disease.

No treatment can stop the disease. However, some drugs may help keep symptoms from getting worse for a period of time.

Source: NIH: National Institute on Aging

Why choose Ohio State for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease?

The Memory Disorders Clinic at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, established in 1993, is one of Ohio’s most comprehensive centers for research, evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Strengths that distinguish us include:

Assessment Expertise: We developed the cognitive assessment tool, SAGE, used nationwide to detect the early signs of cognitive disorders.

Download our SAGE Test

Cognitive Specialists: Ohio State has the most fellowship-trained cognitive specialists in Ohio. Our three physicians and two nurse practitioners bring a high level of skill to diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s disease and addressing the disease’s effects on patients and families. We are experts in behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry, as well.

Multidisciplinary Care:

  • Our psychometricians perform cognitive and neuropsychological testing to evaluate the brain’s ability to process information and emotion.
  • Our neuroradiologists are experienced in correlating brain images with a patient’s history to come to a better understanding of brain processes and abnormalities.
  • Our social worker works exclusively with patients with memory disorders and their families to tap resources that help people cope with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
  • Our pharmacist expertise assists in proper medication use and dosing for patients with memory disorders.
  • Our research coordinators screen and assess patients in clinical trials and are available to answer research questions.

Research: Ohio State conducts more Alzheimer’s clinical research and clinical trials than any other medical center in Ohio. Our patients have more immediate access to the most promising treatments and diagnostic techniques, often long before they are available to the public.

Additionally, we have high-powered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and state-of-the-art positron emission tomography (PET) machines that provide highly defined images for research: the 3 Tesla MRI, 7 Tesla MRI and amyloid and tau PET imaging. This equipment produces crisp, high-resolution images at a remarkable level of accuracy.

Learn more about memory disorders.




Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease

As disease-modifying therapies are discovered, early diagnosis will become increasingly important to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s. Ohio State has developed the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE), which is designed to detect early signs of cognitive, memory or thinking impairments. The 15-minute pen and paper test is best completed at the doctor’s office but can be taken anywhere and then submitted to your doctor for scoring. SAGE does not diagnose any specific condition, but the results help your doctor know if further evaluation is necessary.

Other diagnostic tools we use include:

  • Mental status testing
  • Neuropsychiatric and neuropsychological assessment
  • Blood and other laboratory tests
  • Imaging studies providing detailed images of the brain to help rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, including:
    • Computed tomography (CT)
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan, including amyloid PET and fludeoxyglucose (FDG) PET, a technique that enables definitive early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Genetic testing
  • Physical exam
  • Medical history
  • Interviews with patient and family members


Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

The Ohio State Memory Disorders team of cognitive neurologists, neuropsychiatrists, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, psychometricians and research coordinators, in association with neuropsychologists and psychiatrists, will create an individualized treatment plan.

Most patients with Alzheimer’s disease benefit from medications that slow the symptoms (declining memory and mental functioning) from worsening for a period of time. For these medications to be most effective, they should be started as soon as possible in the course of the disease.

Medications we use include:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors, which help with memory and thinking by slowing the breakdown of an important brain chemical involved in memory functions, e.g., Aricept® (donepezil), Razadyne® (galantamine) and Exelon® (rivastigmine)
  • NMDA (N-methyl D-aspartate) receptor antagonists specifically memantine, which helps to regulate the abnormal activity of glutamate in the brain, a chemical important for learning and memory (e.g., Namenda®) — given for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease
  • Antioxidants, such as vitamin E to act as an antioxidant to boost the body’s natural defense mechanisms against brain cell damage

Our pharmacist in the Memory Disorders Clinic can further discuss these medications with you, and our social worker can provide assistance in working with pharmaceutical companies when a patient is unable to afford medicines.

Our physicians successfully treat many behavioral symptoms that result from Alzheimer’s disease: depression, anxiety, restless behaviors, psychosis, paranoia, hallucinations, mood changes, sleep disorders and appetite disturbances. This treatment helps improve quality of life for both the patient and caregiver.

We also spend time with caregivers and patients to discuss techniques to reduce stress and conflict with a person who has Alzheimer’s.

Our social worker specializes in helping people with memory disorders by linking patients and family members to community resources and to options with assisted living, nursing homes and daycare facilities. 



Research at Ohio State’s Memory Disorders Research Center is unparalleled in the region for clinical trials in Alzheimer’s, dementia and cognitive issues. Multiple studies are currently underway, sponsored either by Ohio State, the National Institutes of Health or pharmaceutical companies. Those focused specifically on Alzheimer’s include:

  • Deep brain stimulation in the Center for Neuromodulation: Ohio State neurosurgeons were first in the United States to implant a pacemaker in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient to determine whether it can stimulate certain areas of the brain to improve thinking and behavior. The deep brain stimulation implant is similar to a cardiac pacemaker device with the exception that the pacemaker wires are implanted in the brain rather than the heart. Rather than focusing on the more-rapidly deteriorating areas of the brain’s temporal lobes, the pacemaker is targeting areas that govern problem-solving, decision-making and judgment. The hope is to stimulate nerve cells that are still healthy. Up to 10 patients with early or mild Alzheimer’s will be enrolled in the study.
  • Medication study for behaviors: Researchers are testing a medicine targeted at relieving agitation and extreme restlessness in patients with Alzheimer’s.
  • Diagnostic studies: Investigators are looking for new biomarkers in spinal fluid and blood to predict who might have or develop Alzheimer’s.
  • Therapeutic studies: Our clinical research neurologists are teaming with pharmaceutical companies to test the safety and effectiveness of the newest disease-modifying therapies available for Alzheimer’s disease.

Ohio State has participated in several studies since 2004 with the national Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study Group. Over the last 23 years, the Ohio State Memory Disorders Research Center had conducted more than 140 dementia-related multicenter and investigator-initiated clinical trials sponsored by industry and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and philanthropy. We collaborate with other academic centers to enroll patients for clinical trials, propelling us more rapidly toward better treatments.

Enroll in a clinical trial

For patients and families who want to contribute to the fight against Alzheimer’s, please consider enrolling in a clinical trial. The Ohio State Memory Disorders Research Center maintains the Buckeye Biospecimen Repository, where we collect and store blood and spinal fluid from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders for research purposes. We also operate the Buckeye Brain Bank, accommodating people who wish to donate their brains after death. The brain tissue is invaluable for the discovery of new treatments for these dementing conditions, and our brain tissue samples are available to researchers all across the country.

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Additional Information

Please bring or send in advance any brain scans, records or reports from your referring physicians. We also will send paperwork in advance for you to complete and bring with you to your appointment. 

Preparing for your visit

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