Thirty-one patients with probable Alzheimer's disease and 11 patients with memory disorders, attributable to multiple cerebral infarctions, were studied using 18-F-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography scans. Asymmetry in cerebral glucose metabolism within these diagnostic groups was assessed by comparison with the metabolic rates obtained in age-equivalent healthy control subjects. A significantly greater number of individuals in both patient groups exhibited predominant left rather than right hemisphere hypometabolism. In addition, for patients with Alzheimer's disease, the degree of asymmetry was not related to either the severity or duration of dementia. These findings could be explained by greater susceptibility of the left hemisphere to degenerative or ischemic brain disease, by a specific sampling effect, or most likely, by greater metabolic deficits resulting from left rather than right hemisphere impairment.