Vascular dementia (VaD) incorporate different vascular mechanisms and changes in the brain, and have different causes and clinical manifestations. Variation in defining the cognitive syndrome, in vascular etiologies, and allowable brain changes in current clinical definitions of VaD have resulted in variable estimates of prevalence, of groups of subjects, and of the types and distribution of putative causal brain lesions. Thus current criteria for VaD select an etiologically and clinically heterogeneous group. This definitional heterogeneity may have been a factor in "negative" clinical trials. An alternative for clinical drug trials is to focus on a more homogeneous group, such as those with subcortical (ischemic) VaD. This designation incorporates two small vessel clinical entities "Binswanger's disease" and "the lacunar state". It comprises small vessel disease as the primary vascular etiology, lacunar infarct(s) and ischaemic white matter lesions as the primary type of brain lesions, and subcortical location as the primary location of lesions. The subcortical clinical syndrome is the primary clinical manifestation, a definition which still requires additional empirical data. We expect that subcortical VaD show a more predictable clinical picture, natural history, outcome, and treatment responses. We propose a modification of the NINDS-AIREN criteria as a new research criteria for subcortical VaD.