Abstract Data that demonstrate distinct patterns of semantic impairment in Alzheimer's disease (AD) are presented. Findings suggest that while groups of mild–moderate patients may not display category specific impairments, some individual patients do show selective impairment of eithernatural kinds orartifacts. We present a model of semantic organization in which category specific impairments arise from damage to distributed features underlying different types of categories. We incorporate the crucial notions of intercorrelations and distinguishing features, allowing us to demonstrate (1) how category specific impairments can result from widespread damage and (2) how selective deficits in AD reflect different points in the progression of impairment. The different patterns of impairment arise from an interaction between the nature of the semantic categories and the progression of damage.