The terms “cortical” and “subcortical” dementia are controversial; however, the clinical distinction between them is real. For example, although Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease (prototypical of cortical and subcortical dementia, respectively) share clinical features, they differ in the presence of aphasia, apraxia, and agnosia in Alzheimer's disease but not in Parkinson's dementia. We review our studies aimed at clarifying the mechanisms underlying the differences between these neurological disorders. Experimental paradigms adopted from animal models were used to study the functional anatomy and neuropsychological characteristics of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The tasks administered include delayed alternation (DA) and delayed response (DR), which are sensitive to frontal system damage, and tactile discrimination learning (TOL) and reversal (TRL) paradigms sensitive to parietal system damage. Alzheimer's patients were significantly impaired on all tasks whereas Parkinsonians with dementia were impaired only on DR and TRL. Consideration of neuroanatomical and neuropsychological mechanisms involved in DA, DR, TOL, and TRL appears to have sharpened the distinction between Alzheimer's and Parkinson's dementia. Dementia in Alzheimer's disease may involve dorsolateral frontal, orbitofrontal and parietal systems. In contrast, dementia in Parkinson's disease may involve prominent dorsolateral frontal system damage.