Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) represents a heterogeneous group of cognitive disturbances at high risk of dementia. The amnestic subtype (aMCI) might be a prodromal state of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The aim of this study is the identification, by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS), of modifications in brain metabolites able to detect subjects with aMCI at risk of conversion towards AD. Twenty-five subjects with aMCI and 29 normal elderly were enrolled; they underwent a comprehensive clinical and instrumental assessment, a cerebral 1H MRS scan to measure N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), choline (Cho), myo-inositol (mI) and creatine (Cr) in the paratrigonal white matter, bilaterally. After 1 year, 5 MCI subjects became demented (progressive MCI, pMCI). Their baseline levels of metabolites were compared with those evaluated in stable MCI (sMCI) and in controls. We observed a significant difference of the NAA/Cr ratio between pMCI (1.48+/-0.08) and sMCI (1.65+/-0.12) and between pMCI and controls (1.63+/-0.16) in the left hemisphere, suggesting that this metabolic alteration can be detected before the clinical appearance of dementia.