Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/parkinsonism-dementia complex is a highly prevalent neurodegenerative disorder among the native Chamorro population of Guam, and is characterized by widespread formation of neurofibrillary tangles. In the present study, the distribution of neurofibrillary tangles was quantitatively assessed in the cerebral cortex of cases presenting with either predominant amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or parkinsonism-dementia symptomatology. Results show that although the regional and laminar lesion distribution is qualitatively similar in both groups, cases with predominant parkinsonism-dementia generally have higher lesion densities than cases with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Interestingly, layer II of the entorhinal cortex was affected to the same degree in both conditions. In both groups, the CA1 field of the hippocampus, subiculum, and entorhinal cortex were the most affected areas. In the neocortex, the perirhinal and inferior temporal cortex consistently had higher lesion densities than the frontal, parietal, and cingulate cortex, whereas the visual cortex was practically devoid of lesions. Also, most of the neurofibrillary tangles were located in the supragranular layers of the neocortex, with relatively low densities in the infragranular layers, in both brain groups. Interestingly, the primary motor cortex contained more neurofibrillary tangles in parkinsonism-dementia than in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. It is possible that the differences in regional neurofibrillary tangle densities reflect the variable severity of the dementing process observed between the two groups of patients. Several studies on Alzheimer's disease and related disorders indicate that the regional and laminar cortical localization of neurofibrillary tangles may parallel the degeneration of specific corticocortical projections. The present data suggest that the population of corticocortical projections involved in Guamanian cases differs substantially from that affected in Alzheimer's disease. The differential distribution and densities of the lesions may contribute to the differences in symptomatology and severity of dementia among Alzheimer's disease and Guamanian cases, although these neurodegenerative disorders as well as related illnesses may share certain etiopathogenetic mechanisms.