The neuropathology of Down syndrome (DS) at middle age is compared with that of Alzheimer disease (AD) at that age, through a review of the published literature and from the author's personal observations on brains from a series of patients of different ages with DS. It is noted that the pathological changes of DS at middle age (i.e. the form and distribution of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, the pattern of involvement (atrophy) of neuronal systems) are qualitatively the same as those of AD at that age, though quantitative differences do occur and these may relate to biological or sociological variations inherent to the two parent populations. It is concluded that in pathological terms patients with DS at middle age do indeed have AD. Some ways in which a study of patients with DS can give insight into the nature and development of the pathological changes of AD are put forward and discussed.