Geriatric Behavioral Health

Woman hugging older adult

Geriatric behavioral health research addresses a broad range of topics related to mental and cognitive disorders of older adults. The research spans from studying risk factors, to understanding the molecular basis of a disease, to improving diagnosis, and to the development of ways to treat and prevent disorders.  

Representative Studies

  • Investigating the role that traumatic brain injury and toxic substances such as pesticides play in the development of cognitive decline and dementia. 
  • Exploring the importance of religion and spirituality on mental health.  
  • Developing and validating neuropsychological and behavioral measures, including novel digital approaches to cognitive testing to better detect early signs of cognitive decline. 
  • Advancing neuroimaging techniques to identify neural biomarkers related to cognitive change in older adults, and to identify perioperative contributions to delirium and later dementia risk. 
  • Using biomarkers from blood and other body fluids to diagnose cognitive and mental health disorders, with the ultimate goal of using these markers to develop treatments for these disorders.  
  • Conducting clinical trials of new medications for mood disorders and cognitive disorders such as mild cognitive impairment and dementia.  
  • Conducting behavioral clinical trials on computerized cognitive training, exercise and nutrition focused on preserving cognition and delaying cognitive decline.  

Duke-UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

In fall 2020, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were awarded funds from the National Institutes of Health to establish an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), part of a federally-funded national network of 33 similar centers.

The ADRC focuses on identifying age-related changes across the lifespan that impact the development, progression and experience of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The center will also identify how factors that arise in early- and mid-life contribute to racial, ethnic and geographic disparities in dementia. A number of faculty members within the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences are involved in the center.

Visit the Website

NC Registry for Brain Health

The NC Registry for Brain Health—the first of its kind in North Carolina—is designed to increase awareness of brain health and Alzheimer's disease and related disorders and connect North Carolinians to research opportunities throughout the state.

The Registry is open to adults aged 18 and older across the state. When you join the Registry, you’ll learn about and have opportunities to get involved in brain health research taking place at:

  • Duke University
  • East Carolina University
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Wake Forest School of Medicine

In addition, researchers at Duke and its partnering institutions (listed above) can request use of the Registry to assist in recruiting study participants.

Visit the Registry Website


Click on a faculty member’s name to view their profile, including their grants and publications.