Tremendous progress has been made in understanding the processes of the Alzheimer's disease (AD) cascade, laying the groundwork for improvements in diagnosis and treatment. Advancement has been made in understanding the genetic basis of AD, with identification of causative genes for early-onset familial AD, and the role of the polymorphism of the APOE gene in the late-onset form of the disease. Understanding cerebral degeneration and accumulation of beta-amyloid has generated hopes for discovery of disease-modifying treatments. Progress is needed in understanding the mechanisms that link beta-amyloid accumulation and neuronal death. The next 5 years will be crucial in this respect.