The severe cognitive impairment during the later stages of Alzheimer's disease is usually preceded by a selective disturbance in the ability to remember new experiences. With quantitative, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging techniques, it is now possible to determine, in vivo, differences in the pattern of anatomical changes that might reflect behavioral symptomatology during different stages of the disease. In the present investigation, magnetic resonance imaging examinations were carried out in aged controls and in clinically diagnosed Alzheimer's disease patients who were divided into three groups based upon dementia severity. Atrophy of the hippocampal formation, a region important for memory function, was observed even in Alzheimer's disease patients with the mildest dementia. With more prominent dementia, atrophy extended to the parahippocampal gyrus and the temporal neocortex.