This study measured brain atrophy in patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease and diffuse Lewy body disease, all of whom had equivalent loss of midbrain dopammergic neurons and absence of Alzheimer's disease. Characteristic patterns of volume loss were found throughout the brain, depending on the age of onset and clinical signs. An equivalent loss of medial temporal lobe structures occurred in all parkinsonian patients. This atrophy was similar in magnitude to that seen in Alzheimer's disease and is likely to be the anatomical substrate for the memory deficits found in each of these patients groups. Frontal lobe atrophy was a feature of both late-onset Parkinson's disease (mild atrophy) and diffuse Lewy body disease (significant atrophy) groups, with all cases analyzed having dementia. Atrophy of frontal lobes correlated with the duration of motor symptoms in these patients and may suggest an association between dopammergic deafferentation, frontal atrophy and dementia.