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Obituary: Lawrence Coben, emeritus associate professor of neurology, 94

Alzheimer’s researcher helped develop widely used Clinical Dementia Rating Scale

February 11, 2021

Lawrence Coben, MD, who with his colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis developed a widely used scale that characterizes and tracks impairment in dementia patients, died of cancer Oct. 7, 2020, in Dedham, Mass. He was 94.

Coben was an emeritus associate professor of neurology at the university. He retired in 1991.

He first arrived at the School of Medicine in 1954 as an intern in neurology. He completed his internship, residency and a fellowship at the school before joining the neurology faculty in 1961. Initially, he specialized in sleep disorders and directed the electroencephalogram (EEG) lab at Barnes Hospital, now Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

He soon turned to Alzheimer’s disease. In 1979, he helped establish the Memory and Aging Project, one of the earliest studies of what was then known as senile dementia. The project is ongoing at Washington University’s Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC). With colleagues including Leonard Berg, MD, the founder of the Knight ADRC, Coben helped develop the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale, which remains widely used by neurologists as a tool to measure dementia patients’ levels of impairment.

To read more about Coben, see his obituary in the St. Louis Jewish Light.