The goals of this study were to evaluate brain activation in patients with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and controls while performing a working memory (WM) task. Eleven AD patients, ten MCI subjects, and nine controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a visual WM task. Statistical parametric maps of brain activation were obtained in each group, and group activation difference maps were generated. Ability to perform the task did not differ among the groups. Activation was observed in the parahippocampal region, superior-middle-inferior frontal gyri, parietal region, anterior-posterior cingulate, fusiform gyrus, and basal ganglia. MCI and AD groups showed more activation than the controls in the right superior frontal gyrus, bilateral middle temporal, middle frontal, anterior cingulate, and fusiform gyri. Activation in the right parahippocampal gyrus, left inferior frontal gyrus, bilateral cingulate and lingual gyri, right lentiform nucleus, right fusiform gyrus, and left supramarginal gyrus in the AD group was less than in the MCI group. The WM task evoked activation in widely distributed regions, consistent with previous fMRI studies. AD and MCI patients showed an increased extent of activation and recruitment of additional areas.