OBJECTIVE: To characterize and quantify the patterns of temporal lobe atrophy in AD vs semantic dementia and to relate the findings to the cognitive profiles. Medial temporal lobe atrophy is well described in AD. In temporal variant frontotemporal dementia (semantic dementia), clinical studies suggest polar and inferolateral temporal atrophy with hippocampal sparing, but quantification is largely lacking. METHODS: A volumetric method for quantifying multiple temporal structures was applied to 26 patients with probable AD, 18 patients with semantic dementia, and 21 matched control subjects. RESULTS: The authors confirmed the expected bilateral hippocampal atrophy in AD relative to controls, with involvement of the amygdala bilaterally and the right parahippocampal gyrus. Contrary to expectations, patients with semantic dementia had asymmetric hippocampal atrophy, more extensive than AD on the left. As predicted, the semantic dementia group showed more severe involvement of the temporal pole bilaterally and the left amygdala, parahippocampal gyrus (including the entorhinal cortex), fusiform gyrus, and the inferior and middle temporal gyri. Performance on semantic association tasks correlated with the size of the left fusiform gyrus, whereas naming appeared to depend upon a wider left temporal network. Episodic memory measures, with the exception of recognition memory for faces, did not correlate with temporal measures. CONCLUSIONS: Hippocampal atrophy is not specific for AD but is also seen in semantic dementia. Distinguishing the patients with semantic dementia was the severe global but asymmetric (left > right) atrophy of the amygdala, temporal pole, and fusiform and inferolateral temporal gyri. These findings have implications for diagnosis and understanding of the cognitive deficits in AD and semantic dementia.