The authors investigated whether MMSE indices designed to measure temporal and physical orientation, declarative memory, language, working memory, and motor/constructional function could differentiate patients with different dementia diagnoses: Alzheimer's disease (AD), ischemic vascular dementia (IVD), or Parkinson's disease (PD). MMSE summary scores did not differ (AD, 21.4; IVD, 21.1; PD, 22.3). The AD group scored lower than IVD or PD on temporal orientation and declarative memory, IVD lower than AD on motor/ constructional and working memory. The IVD and PD groups made more errors in writing a sentence and copying intersecting pentagons. Significant correlations were found between the orientation indices and neuropsychological tests of naming and memory, and between the working memory and motor/constructional indices and tests of executive control. Such analyses of MMSE performance could assist in formulating referral questions for cognitive assessment and in tracking the course of dementing illnesses.