Previous research suggests that patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) are impaired on executive function early in the course of disease, but negative findings were reported. To evaluate the performance on executive tasks in early AD and to determine the involvement of memory on the outcome of executive tasks. Thirty-six AD patients were divided into two subgroups on the basis of the MMSE: very mild and mild. The comparison with 17 normal controls shows that very mild AD patients had deficits on visuospatial short-term memory, episodic memory, flexibility and self-monitoring abilities, concept formation and reasoning. The mild AD patients showed additional deficits on the Similarities test. Episodic memory and executive deficits occur in the very early stage of AD and precede impairment in constructional praxis, language and sustained attention. With the progression of the disease, additional deficit is observed in abstract thinking. In mild AD, memory failure is also related to executive impairment.