The accurate clinical diagnosis of degenerative cortical brain disorders is a necessary prerequisite for patient management and the critical evaluation of new treatments. This study has evaluated the ability of single photon emission tomography (SPET) to differentiate between Alzheimer's disease (AD) and different forms of non-Alzheimer lobar atrophy (LA), using a multi-purpose system in widespread routine clinical use. 99mTc-HMPAO SPET was carried out in patients with AD and three clinical syndromes associated with LA: frontotemporal dementia (FTD), progressive non-fluent aphasia (PA) and semantic dementia (SD). Principal component (PC) analysis was performed on regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) data and inter-group comparisons were performed for PC scores using multiple t-tests. Three PCs explained 86.5% of the variation in rCBF values between individual patients and normal controls. The first PC reflected the average rCBF value and separated patient groups from normal controls but failed to distinguish between patient groups. The second PC reflected anterior-posterior asymmetry and separated AD from all three forms of LA. This PC also separated FTD and SD from controls but failed to distinguish between FTD, PA and SD. The third PC reflected left-right asymmetry and separated PA from all other groups. 99mTc-HMPAO SPET is able to differentiate between degenerative cortical brain disorders in a simple and physiological meaningful way, thereby showing considerable potential as a routine tool in the clinical evaluation and differentiation of AD and LA.