Individuals with antemortem preservation of cognition who show autopsy evidence of at least moderate Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology suggest the possibility of brain reserve, that is, functional resistance to structural brain damage. This reserve would, however, only be relevant if the pathologic markers correlate well with dementia. Using data from the Nun Study (n = 498) and the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) Study (n = 323), we show that Braak staging correlates strongly with dementia status. Moreover, participants with severe(Braak stage V-VI) AD pathology who remained not demented represent only 12% (Nun Study) and 8% (ACT study) of nondemented subjects. Comparison of these subjects to those who were demented revealed that the former group was often significantly memory-impaired despite not being classified as demented. Most of these nondemented participants showed only stage V neurofibrillary pathology and frontal tangle counts that were slightly lower than a comparable (Braak stage V) dementia group. In summary, these data indicate that, in individuals with AD-type pathology who do not meet criteria for dementia, neocortical neurofibrillary tangles are somewhat reduced and incipient cognitive decline is present. Our data provide a foundation for helping to define additional factors that may impair, or be protective of, cognition in older adults.