In order to understand what cognitive changes can be expected with aging versus those caused by disease, the New England Centenarian Study examined correlations between neuropsychological evaluation and neuropathological studies of centenarian subjects. Sixty-nine subjects were administered an extensive neuropsychological test battery designed for centenarians. Six brain donors from this group have subsequently died, and neuropathological studies of their brains have been performed to determine the presence of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other pathological states. Of these six centenarians, three subjects had Clinical Dementia Rating scores of 0 and no dementia on neuropsychological testing, and subsequent neuropathology showed very limited AD changes. In fact, despite a range of neuropsychological findings, none of the subjects in this series met neuropathological criteria for a diagnosis of definite AD. Findings suggest that dementia is not inevitable with aging and that dementia in this age group is surprisingly often not attributable to AD.