A new diagnostic indicator of FDG PET scan abnormality, based on age-adjusted t statistics and an automated voxel-based procedure, is presented and validated in a large data set comprising 110 normal controls and 395 patients with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD) that were studied in eight participating centers. The effect of differences in spatial resolution of PET scanners was minimized effectively by filtering and masking. In controls FDG uptake declined significantly with age in anterior cingulate and frontolateral perisylvian cortex. In patients with probable AD decline of FDG uptake in posterior cingulate, temporoparietal, and prefrontal association cortex was related to dementia severity. These effects were clearly distinct from age effects in controls, suggesting that the disease process of AD is not related to normal aging. Women with probable AD had significantly more frontal metabolic impairment than men. The new indicator of metabolic abnormality in AD-related regions provided 93% sensitivity and specificity for distinction of mild to moderate probable AD from normals, and 84% sensitivity at 93% specificity for detection of very mild probable AD (defined by Mini Mental Score 24 or better). All regions related to AD severity were already affected in very mild AD, suggesting that all vulnerable areas are affected to a similar degree already at disease onset. Ventromedial frontal cortex was also abnormal. In conclusion, automated analysis of multicenter FDG PET is feasible, provides insights into AD pathophysiology, and can be used potentially as a sensitive biomarker for early AD diagnosis.