Concentrations of copper (Cu), iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) were measured in the rims and cores of senile plaques (SP) and in the neuropil of the amygdala of nine Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients and in the neuropil of the amygdala of five neurologically normal control subjects using micro particle-induced X-ray emission (micro-PIXE). Comparison of SP rim and core values revealed no significant differences between levels of Cu, Fe or Zn. Zinc and Fe in SP rims and cores were significantly elevated in AD compared with AD neuropil (P<0.05). Copper was significantly elevated (P<0.05) in the rim of SP compared with AD neuropil. Comparison of AD and control neuropil revealed a significant (P<0.05) elevation of Zn in AD subjects. The elevation of these elements in SP in AD is of interest in light of the observation that Cu, Fe and particularly Zn, can accelerate aggregation of amyloid beta peptide.