Presynaptic serotonergic markers, serotonin uptake sites, and concentrations of serotonin and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid were studied in the frontal and temporal cortex of 20 community-acquired cases of Alzheimer's disease and 16 controls matched for age, sex, postmortem delay, and storage. Clinical assessments, including behavioural symptoms, of the Alzheimer patients were made at 4-month intervals during life. There was significant reduction in the number of serotonin uptake sites in Alzheimer cases in temporal but not frontal cortex. There was no significant alteration in the concentrations of serotonin or 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in either region. Alzheimer patients who had persistent depressive symptoms during life had significantly fewer serotonin uptake sites in both cortical areas compared with Alzheimer patients without these symptoms. In addition, Alzheimer patients who were receiving chronic neuroleptic medication had significantly lower concentrations of serotonin in frontal cortex and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in temporal cortex than those patients not receiving such treatment. These data suggest previous studies that reported uniform serotonergic dysfunction may have been subject to unintentional selection of behaviourally disturbed Alzheimer cases or those receiving chronic neuroleptic medication. This study also provides a basis for the treatment of behaviourally disturbed Alzheimer patients with serotonomimetics.