What is the Memory & Aging Project?

Since 1979, the Memory & Aging Project (MAP) at Washington University has studied cognitive functioning in persons as they age. Our efforts are designed to provide information on the aging process in healthy older persons and in those diagnosed as having a dementia of the Alzheimer type or another related disorder. The Memory and Aging Project has enrolled hundreds of volunteers for our studies and is at the forefront of a worldwide effort to uncover key causal factors in the development of Alzheimer disease. Our goal is the development of more effective treatments and an eventual cure or prevention of Alzheimer disease.

Who can volunteer?

  • Individuals age 40 and older with or without memory loss
  • In stable, general health
  • No problems with memory or thinking OR have mild dementia
  • Have a study partner (spouse, family member or friend) who will be interviewed yearly
  • Willing and able to complete all study procedures
  • We are especially seeking volunteers from underrepresented populations (e.g., Hispanic and African American).

What study procedures are a part of MAP?


Yearly interviews in our office with the study participant and study partner are performed to assess the participant’s memory and thinking. These last between 2-3 hours.

Blood Sample

Blood sample is taken to test DNA for genetic causes of AD.

Lumbar Puncture

A lumbar puncture is used to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and is performed every 2-3 years. CSF contains proteins and other chemicals that are important for brain health and provides a unique “window” into understanding how Alzheimer disease develops and progresses.

Cognitive Testing

Yearly psychometric testing of the study participant’s memory and thinking is preformed in our office. This testing takes between 2-3 hours.

Brain Scans

Brain scans, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) are conducted every 2-3 years. Scans can last up to 2 hours, and you are welcome to take a break if needed.

Additional Testing

Additional testing, such as a sleep study, for selected volunteers is also possible.

What is brain donation?

We now know more about Alzheimer disease than ever before. This is in large part due to the dedication of research volunteers and the gift of brain donation for autopsy. A brain autopsy confirms a diagnosis of Alzheimer disease (AD) and identifies clues about other diseases that may be present in brain tissue. Information from the autopsy helps researchers better understand Alzheimer Disease and find a cure to help future generations. Learn more about this voluntary contribution from our Brain Donation Fact Sheet.

Contact Us

A Memory and Aging Project (MAP) team member can provide you with information about the study and answer any questions you may have. Use our online inquiry form or give us a call!

Call MAP at (314) 286-2683 for further information.