Preclinical research suggests that piracetam (a nootropic drug) may improve cognitive functions, but previous studies have failed to demonstrate a clear benefit for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD). We report a 1-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study with a high dose of piracetam (8 g/d per os) in 33 ambulant patients with early probable AD. Thirty subjects completed the 1-year study. No improvement occurred in either group, but our results support the hypothesis that long-term administration of high doses of piracetam might slow the progression of cognitive deterioration in patients with AD. The most significant differences concerned the recall of pictures series and recent incident and remote memory. The drug was well-tolerated.