Twenty-two subjects with presumed senile dementia of the Alzheimer's type (SDAT), twenty-two with dementia other than SDAT, twenty with aphasia, and seventeen healthy controls over 50 years of age were examined for intrusions and perseverations. Perseverations were defined as the immediate inappropriate repetition of a prior response whereas intrusions were defined as the inappropriate repetition of prior responses after intervening stimuli. Intrusions and perseverations occurred in demented and aphasic subjects, but were rare in controls. Intrusions occurred most often in SDAT or Wernicke aphasia, but also in dementia other than SDAT. Intrusions were not correlated with dementia severity. Intrusions are a useful sign of dementia, but they cannot be considered pathognomonic of SDAT. They appear to arise when subjects are unable to access correct responses from long-term memory and instead substitute erroneous responses selected from short-term memory. Perseverations were most common in the Wernicke aphasics and subjects with dementia due to communicating hydrocephalus. Although frontal lobe dysfunction is prominent in communicating hydrocephalus, it is absent in cases of Wernicke aphasia. Thus, we have confirmed prior suggestions that perseveration can occur in the absence of frontal lobe injury. Failure to self-monitor speech as well as an inability to change mental set probably plays an important role in the genesis of perseverations. There was no statistically significant correlation between dementia severity and number of perseverations. Low correlations were found between intrusions and perseverations suggesting that these seemingly similar behaviors are distinct and are probably produced by separate neuropsychological mechanisms.