The aims of this cross-sectional study were (i) to compare the overall glucose metabolism between early onset and late onset Alzheimer's disease in a large sample of patients; and (ii) to investigate the pattern of glucose metabolism as a function of dementia severity in early onset versus late onset Alzheimer's disease, using a statistical parametric mapping (SPM) analysis. Subjects consisted of four groups: 74 patients with early onset Alzheimer's disease, 46 patients with late onset of the disease, and two control groups age matched to each patient group. All the subjects underwent 2-[F-18]fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose (FDG)-PET under the same scanning conditions. Severity of dementia was rated with the Clincial Dementia Rating (CDR). Voxel-based SPM99 was used for statistical analyses. Overall glucose hypometabolism of early onset Alzheimer's disease patients was much greater in magnitude and extent than that of late onset patients, though both groups were similar in dementia severity: the early onset group showed more severe hypometabolism in parietal, frontal and subcortical (basal ganglia and thalamus) areas. When the decline of glucose metabolism was compared as a function of CDR stage, the slope was steeper in early onset than in late onset Alzheimer's disease. The rapid decline occurred at CDR 0.5-1 in the early onset group, whereas similar changes occurred at CDR 2-3 in the late onset group. The greater hypometabolism in early onset than in late onset patients is required to reach the same severity of dementia, probably reflecting greater functional reserve in younger than in older subjects. Alternatively, the metabolic decline curve suggests that the early onset patients may take a more rapid course in the reduction of glucose metabolism than the late onset patients.