The study of Alzheimer's disease is hampered by insufficient knowledge of its cause. It can best be described as a syndrome whose clinical and pathological features, and their associations over time, need to be more carefully examined. Issues which impede our understanding of this syndrome include the lack of: (a) a singular “gold standard” for its identification; (b) longitudinal studies with appropriate comparison groups and neuropathological follow-up; and (c) standardized multifaceted clinical assessment procedures. Our awareness of the significance of these issues has led us to undertake a large-scale prospective, longitudinal investigation of 399 dementing and normal individuals at Sunnybrook Medical Centre. As a result of problems identified, it is proposed that research efforts across various Canadian centres be coordinated to best utilize available resources and expertise.