The distributions of the cerebral gray matter, the white matter, and the intracranial cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were measured in 14 patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) and in 14 healthy control subjects. The measurements, derived from two specifically designed magnetic resonance inversion-recovery sequences, compensate for partial signal averaging. The percentage of the gray matter in the brains of AD patients (44.9% +/- 4.4) was significantly lower than in control subjects (50.2% +/- 3.2). The most significant reduction (P less than .001) occurred in the temporal lobes (13.8%) and a central region (12.8); the reduction in frontal lobe (11.2%) and occipital lobe (9.2%) was also statistically significant (P less than .01). There was an increase in the CSF volume in the temporal, occipital, and frontal regions; no region showed a significant difference in the white matter content. The findings of diffuse changes and temporal lobe involvement in AD are consistent with pathologic observations of cortical cell loss.