Diagnosis of probable Alzheimer disease (AD) is made by a combination of characteristic clinical findings, when normal laboratory studies reveal no structural or metabolic cause of the dementia. Definite diagnosis of AD, however, can only be made with brain tissue examination. PET scanning reveals parietotemporal decreases in cerebral blood flow (CBF) and glucose metabolism that differentiate AD from normal elderly and from multi-infarct dementia. Preliminary studies suggest that similar defects in CBF are detectable in single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) in AD. Utilizing the iodinated ligand [123I] HIPDM ([123I] hydroxyiodobenzylpropanediamine), we studied 19 patients with probable AD of varying severity, with emphasis on mild cases, to assess the utility of SPECT as a diagnostic test in AD. Parietotemporal perfusion on SPECT was decreased unilaterally or bilaterally in 16 of 19 AD patients, similar to the defects reported with PET. The degree and extent of decreased CBF on SPECT correlated with AD severity. Strong correlations were obtained between decreases in computer-generated ratios of parietal to cerebellar activity and the level of cognitive function. SPECT was read as normal (on the radiographic film) by the nuclear medicine physician in all cases with Mini-Mental State (MMS) score > 24, and showed bilateral parietal perfusion deficits in only 1 of 4 patients with MMS between 22 and 24. Ten of 12 patients with MMS ≤21 had bilateral parietal abnormalities; the other 2 had unilateral perfusion defects. All patients with MMS < 15 were bilaterally abnormal. SPECT is less expensive and more widely available than PET, and may have an adjunctive role in diagnosis of AD and other dementias if utilized under the proper circumstances.