Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) can detect, in vivo, the directionality of molecular diffusion and estimate the microstructural integrity of white matter (WM) tracts. In this study, we examined WM changes in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and in subjects with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who are at greater risk for developing AD. A DTI index of WM integrity, fractional anisotropy (FA), was calculated in 14 patients with probable mild AD, 14 participants with MCI and 21 elderly healthy controls (NC). Voxel-by-voxel comparisons showed significant regional reductions of FA in participants with MCI and AD compared to controls in multiple posterior white matter regions. Moreover, there was substantial overlap of locations of regional decrease in FA in the MCI and AD groups. These data demonstrate that white matter changes occur in MCI, prior to the development of dementia.