The cholinergic hypothesis of memory dysfunction originally proposed that dysfunction of cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain cholinergic system (BFCS) may be responsible for the memory deficits associated with aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD). This hypothesis directed focus on the BFCS in experimental animal models of AD. In contrast to numerous studies in rodents, fewer investigations have been conducted in monkeys with BFCS lesions. The medical septal nucleus/nucleus of the diagonal band of Broca (MS/NDBB) and the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) may be involved in different cognitive functions in monkeys. Although few investigations have specifically addressed the issue of cognitive functions of the MS/NDBB in monkeys, there is some indication that these regions may be important for memory. In contrast, lesions of the NBM do not consistently disrupt mnemonic functions in monkeys. Recent electrophysiological and lesion studies of monkeys indicate that the NBM may play a more important role in attention functions, impairments of which are an early and significant feature of patients with AD.