To define altered metabolites in the brain of patients with probable Alzheimer disease (AD) of two brain regions, localized in vivo hydrogen-1 magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy was performed with a short echo time (30 msec) in 11 elderly patients and 10 healthy age-matched subjects. The patients had mild to moderate dementia, assessed with standard neuropsychological tests. Two abnormalities in the patients' cerebral cortex were defined: When compared with healthy subjects, the patients showed a 22% increase (P = .005) (approximately equal to 1.5 mmol/kg) in myo-inositol (MI) and an 11% decrease (P = .005) in residues of N-acetyl (NA), a putative neuronal marker. The elevation of MI in patients with mild to moderate AD suggests that abnormalities in the inositol polyphosphate messenger pathway occur early in the natural history of AD. The combination of high MI and low NA at examination with H-1 MR spectroscopy shows promise as an early diagnostic test for AD.