This article reports the severity and profile of neuropsychological impairment on a prevalent cohort of patients with a clinical diagnosis of either multiple system atrophy (n=372) or progressive supranuclear palsy (n=311) from the Neuroprotection and Natural History in Parkinson Plus Syndromes cohort. The Dementia Rating Scale and Frontal Assessment Battery were used to assess global cognition and executive dysfunction. For the Dementia Rating Scale impairment was observed in approximately 57% of the progressive supranuclear palsy group and 20% of the multiple system atrophy group. In the former, impairment in a single cognitive domain was observed in 40%, with the same number showing impairment in multiple domains, while in the latter the figures were 28.6 and 13.5%, respectively. On the Frontal Assessment Battery, impairment was observed in 62.0% of patients with progressive supranuclear palsy and 31.8% of those with multiple system atrophy. Although the progressive supranuclear palsy group performed worse overall, the cognitive profiles of the two groups on the Dementia Rating Scale subscales were identical, with the main impairment of the Initiation and Perseveration subscale. The impaired patients in the two groups were largely indistinguishable, qualitatively and quantitatively. Impairment was associated with greater age and clinical disability in both groups and was evident even in the early stages (22% in multiple system atrophy and 50% in progressive supranuclear palsy). Where a pathological diagnosis was available, the original clinical diagnosis was confirmed in the majority of cases, including those with significant cognitive impairment. The rate of impairment in those with a confirmed pathological diagnosis was comparable to that of the sample as a whole. These results demonstrate, in the largest prospectively recruited cohort of patients with progressive supranuclear palsy and multiple system atrophy studied to date, the existence of a cognitive profile similar to that previously reported in idiopathic Parkinson's disease. The results indicate a high level of cognitive impairment associated with progressive supranuclear palsy, but also point to comparable dysfunction in a substantial proportion of the patients with multiple system atrophy. Significant cognitive impairment appears consistent with a diagnosis of multiple system atrophy, even early in the disease, with important implications for diagnosis, research and management.