In four patients with an antemortem diagnosis of probable Alzheimer's disease (AD) regional cerebral glucose metabolism (rCMRGl) was studied prospectively by positron emission tomography (PET) and compared with postmortem semiquantitative neuropathology. The interval between the last PET study and autopsy was 1.3 +/- 0.8 years. In comparison with age-matched controls, the AD patients showed predominant temporoparietal hypometabolism spreading to other cortical and subcortical regions during serial PET scans. All patients had neuropathological findings typical for AD. There was a significant relationship between rCMRGl and density of senile plaques (SP) in one patient (tau b = -0.86, P < 0.05). SP were distributed quite homogeneously in all regions examined. Neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) were concentrated focally in the hippocampus-amygdala-entorhinal complex. In the context of widespread developing cortical hypometabolism, the predilection of NFT for involvement in limbic areas suggests a disruption of projection neurons as the pathogenetic process of cortical dysfunction.