Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly. Clinicopathological studies support the presence of a long preclinical phase of the disease, with the initial deposition of AD pathology estimated to begin approximately 10-15 years prior to the onset of clinical symptoms. The hallmark clinical phenotype of AD is a gradual and progressive decline in two or more cognitive domains, most commonly involving episodic memory and executive functions, that is sufficient to cause social or occupational impairment. Current diagnostic criteria can accurately identify AD in the majority of cases. As disease-modifying therapies are being developed, there is growing interest in the identification of individuals in the earliest symptomatic, as well as presymptomatic, stages of disease, because it is in this population that such therapies may have the greatest chance of success. The use of informant-based methods to establish cognitive and functional decline of an individual from previously attained levels of performance best allows for the identification of individuals in the very mildest stages of cognitive impairment.