On mental status examinations, groups of equally impaired patients with subcortical (Huntington's disease, HD; Parkinson's disease, PD) or cortical (Alzheimer's disease, AD) dementias exhibit different patterns of neuropsychological deficits. Using the Repeatable Battery for Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS), classification accuracies of 90% or greater have been reported for individual patients with AD or HD. To test the generality of the RBANS classification algorithm, we studied patients with dementia (AD and PDD) and without dementia (PDND). Classification accuracies were AD: 87%, PDD: 78%, and PDND: 39%. Comparisons of performance on subtests of the RBANS showed that all groups performed more poorly on tests that require motor skill or rapid information processing and that memory performance by the PD groups was not improved by procedures that enhance encoding and facilitate retrieval. The RBANS is useful for discriminating patterns of cognitive impairment in PD and AD, but only if the diagnosis of dementia is established independent of the RBANS test results. Cognitive slowing is not specific to subcortical dementia and current concepts of memory dysfunction in PD may require re-examination.